Traditional print jockeys now have to tussle with a supermarket tabloid for a Pulitzer Prize. This week, the administrators of daily journalism's biggest exercise in self-congratulation reversed themselves and agreed to consider the National Enquirer in two Pulitzer categories for its reporting of the John Edwards infidelity/paternity imbroglio. The news was hailed by nontraditional journalists at outlets like the Huffington Post and Gawker, who lobbied mercilessly on the Enquirer's behalf (and who have no shortage of schadenfreude when it comes to the suffering of print giants like the New York Times and Washington Post).
There's no question that the gossipy Enquirer—whose current issue leads with a washed-up pop diva's health problems ("WHITNEY DYING!") and a celebrity chef's romantic woes ("PAULA DEEN DIVORCE SHOCKER!")—ran with a story nobody else vetted when it exposed the dalliance between then-Sen. Edwards and staffer Rielle Hunter. And the paper deserves some recognition for being, in many ways, a tastemaker and trendsetter in the new media landscape. But the Enquirer's allies overlook the fact that its most questionable reporting practice was precisely what got it the "scoop" over other organizations—and what ultimately could lead the tabloid to get squeezed out of its own business.