The Enquirer Makes a Bid for a Pulitzer

Well, this is kind of interesting. From Howie Kurtz:

The executive editor of the National Enquirer says he plans to enter his paper’s work on the John Edwards scandal for a Pulitzer Prize.

Don’t laugh.

“It’s clear we should be a contender for this,” Barry Levine said by phone Thursday, hours after the former presidential candidate admitted what the newspaper had been reporting all along: that he is the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby. “The National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid, was able to publish this reporting.”

As Kurtz notes, the Enquirer’s entry, if it is actually submitted, will be a long shot if only for reasons of timing: “the tabloid’s most significant disclosures came in 2007 and 2008, and this year’s Pulitzers will honor material published in 2009.” (No doubt the prize committee will be terribly disappointed to have a reason not to honor the publication.)

Still, whether or not the Enquirer takes home an award, it’s definitely been picking up some mainstream cred for its coverage of the scandal. The chapter on John and Elizabeth Edwards in the dishy new campaign chronicle Game Change devotes a lengthy passage to the tabloid’s pursuit of the story, while noting that “the mainstream media, yet again, was determinedly ignoring the Enquirer.” And Kurtz, in his story today, writes that “there is no question that the paper scooped the rest of the media world.”

The different approaches of the Enquirer and the rest of the media to this story were the subject of considerable debate here at CJR as the coverage unfolded. In October 2007, Megan Garber criticized Slate blogger Mickey Kaus for hyping the Enquirer’s then-thinly sourced reporting. In August 2008, Clint Hendler took a look at the efforts of the Charlotte Observer, a rare major paper that attempted to follow up on the Enquirer’s coverage. And at about the same time, Jane Kim examined how the episode raised perennial questions about how the press should cover the private lives of politicians, and how different elements of the media world interact.

Pulitzer or no, those questions will be back in the air this week.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.