Monday, April 12, 2010

Bristol Herald Courier, circulation 33,000, wins public-service Pulitzer Prize for coal-gas series

A wonderful example of rural journalism is the latest recipient of the most prestigious Pulitzer Prize, the one for public service. The Bristol Herald Courier, circulation 33,000, won the award today for reporting on the mess Virginia and its natural-gas companies have made of a law and program to develop the state's coalbed methane and pay royalties to those who have a claim on it.

The public-service prize is a gold medal, given to an organization rather than an individual, but the Pulitzer jury cited "the work of Daniel Gilbert [left] in illuminating the murky mismanagement of natural-gas royalties owed to thousands of land owners in southwest Virginia, spurring remedial action by state lawmakers." Gilbert, 28, had already won the Investigative Reporters and Editors award for papers under 100,000 circulation and the initial prize for community journalism in the National Journalism Awards.

Today's award shows that Gilbert's work, and the support of his editors, was worthy of more than categorical recognition -- and that there is plenty of talent and gumption among rural journalists. "It underscores the importance of public service reporting, especially in rural areas," Gilbert told Steve Szkotak of The Associated Press. Editor J. Todd Foster said, "This is validation that a newspaper with limited resources can do world-class journalism." He said Gilbert's work shows "why newspapers will continue to survive in some form. Nobody else is going to do this sort of reporting." (Read more)

For our original item on the series, with links to individual stories, click here. For items on the NJA and IRE awards, go here and here. For a list of this year's Pulitzer Prizes, from The Washington Post, which led this year's list with four, go here.

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