Pulling a Pulitzer
In the April issue of Wired Magazine, Jonathan Keats argues that Google deserves to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, because it best embodies the values of the prize. He declares, “Literary heroes of an age are often neglected by future times and tastes.” Because literary fame mirrors the trends in society, it makes more sense to award the prize to a work that “changes at the pace of society itself” than something stagnant, only representative of a particular era. What embodies the changing pace of society better than Google?
When the Pulitzer Prize winners won their awards, I could not help but wonder why Twitter was not considered worthy of the Breaking News Reporting award. Some might argue that Twitter is an entity, not a person. Others might say that 140-character updates hardly qualify as examples of artful reporting. And then, there are those who might assert that if a tweet (or several) did merit such an award, it would be more appropriate to bestow it upon the people responsible for the tweet instead of the entirety of Twitter.
I want to address each of these concerns one at a time. Most importantly, the argument that Twitter is not a person holds little weight. In a time when Citizens United renders corporations and people equal, and corporations are endowed with the same first amendment rights as people, Twitter passes the test of being considered a “person.”
After all, if our society protects corporate speech and actions, it can reward them too. Awarding an entity would not be unprecedented, either. As Keats cites in his article, the European Union earned a Nobel Prize in 2012. This recent example sets the precedent for entities, rather than people receiving recognition for distinguished works.
Even if we choose to recognize Twitter as a legitimate recipient, we must dismiss the claim that Tweets do not exemplify artful reporting. Conveying a breaking news update — a live disaster or a new discovery — complete with pictures requires the mastery of language and a high level of intelligence.
Journalists spend years learning the craft of writing the perfect lead, of opening their stories with just the right words. Imagine a story that consists of only the lead; that is a tweet. In fact, some of the most important breaking news reporting comes from Twitter. Remember the sexual misconduct scandal regarding Herman Cain or the first updates from the recent Boston Marathon bombing. It is inarguable that Twitter gets there before most major news agencies do, because anyone and everyone can tweet.
That, the fact that anyone and everyone can tweet, poses the next challenge to Twitter’s worthiness as a Pulitzer Prize recipient.
If the tweets belong to individuals, why should all of Twitter receive the award? Although the person who tweets the update deserves credit, it is the structure and existence of Twitter that allows any given person to become a reporter. If Twitter did not exist, neither would tweets. And the people who write them would not have as adequate an avenue for their street reporting.
So, as we look at the Pulitzer Prize winners this year, especially the recipient of the Breaking News Reporting award, we must not forget to recognize the real winner: Twitter.
Misha Euceph is a third-year philosophy and literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.