Does Twitter Deserve a Pulitzer Prize?


On Monday, the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced, and while journalists and photographers from the New York Times, Politico, Agence France Press  earned praise, there were two  categories that did not get awarded: editorial and fiction.

This is not the first time in the history of the Prize that the $10,000 editorial prize remained unassigned. Since the creation of the award in 1917 by journalist and publisher James Pulitzer, this has occurred seven times, and the last time the prize was not awarded was four years ago.

At that time, Twitter was only two years old, too young to be even be considered for the editorial Pulitzer. But now that the social network is used by journalists and as a mean to communicate by activists, protesters, and citizens, many people wonder why the prize did not go to Twitter.

The Pulitzer Prize award is intended to honor “excellence in journalism and the arts.” But here’s the big question: Is Twitter journalism?

For Michael De Monte, CEO of Scribble Live, Twitter is mainly good “for birds.” Writing for the Bloomberg Business Week website, he believes 140 words are not enough to tell a story.

Back in 2009, Paul Farhi from the Washington Post recognized Twitter was popular because it is fast and can share a piece of information with a broad audience. In his view, Twitter works well when events are happening fast.

Twitter is so influential in newsgathering and delivering news that media organizations are constantly providing guidance to journalists. Sky News and the BBC recently forbade their journalists from tweeting breaking news stories on Twitter before passing them to the newsroom.

As much as it has been a valid support for contemporary reporting, however, Twitter is not journalism. Stating that Twitter is journalism simply because the two share the common aim of delivering information is not only wrong, but also represents a simplification of the journalistic profession. 

Journalism goes beyond the mere delivery of information; it also serves as a watchdog for governments and helps citizens to shape their own ideas. In addition, journalism has specific rules and codes for fact-checking and reporting, which simply cannot exist on Twitter. 

Although it is a powerful tool, Twitter should not be considered as an alternative to what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenthiel consider having an “obligation to the truth.”