This week's announcement of the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes showed how when the journalism business suffers, the public suffers.
One of the winners is the East Valley Tribune, a paper up in Mesa, which garnered a prize for Local Reporting. Specifically, Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin won the honor "for their adroit use of limited resources to reveal, in print and online, how a popular sheriff's focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of violent crime and other aspects of public safety." That "popular sheriff," of course, is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
It's a good thing the Tribune did that crucial journalism work when it did, because chances are, it would not be done today.
You see, Paul Giblin no longer works for the Tribune. Nor does Patti Epler, the editor who directed the five-part series. They have been laid off by the Tribune, which slashed its staff, distribution and publication schedule (from daily to four days per week and, as of next month, three days per week) due to the malaise hitting the media biz that's being spurred on by the horrible economy.
Yeah, daily-newspaper companies brought much of this malaise on themselves by slashing costs to keep profit margins sky-high and by failing to innovate—and they're suffering as a result. But the public's going to suffer, too.
In any case, congratulations to Gabrielson, Giblin and Epler. And while sending along well-wishes, I'd like to wish good luck to Epler and Giblin with their new effort, a fledgling online news Web site called The Arizona Guardian (www.arizonaguardian.com). As the Pulitzer Prize demonstrates, the public needs talented journalists like this doing what they do.