Is there an expiration date on a Pulitzer celebration?

Three years ago, Glens Falls Post Star editorial writer Mark Mahoney wrote a spellbinding series of pieces on the public’s right to know. He slammed confidential settlements by government agencies, a county government that didn’t release details of a key contract, and a school board that imposed a gag order on its members.

The collection earned the upstate New York newspaper the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.


As I’ve observed its staying power over the years, I’ve wondered when if it might come down. No plans on that front, says Post Star Editor Ken Tingley: “We’re going to keep it up there... till we win the next one.” Small papers like the Post Star, Tingley suggests, have a different standard for Pulitzer celebrations than do large papers. “We do look at it as it’s only going to happen very rarely to any small newspaper,” says the editor. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.”

But doesn’t it signal that you’re living in the past? That your peak is in the rearview mirror? Not at all, says Phil Fernandez, editor of the Bristol Herald Courier, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Public Service award for exposing how energy companies were ripping off landowners.

The Herald Courier also keeps a little reminder at the top of its front page. “It’s a standard my folks are working to uphold,” says Fernandez, who has no plans to take it down. “It was just last year, and something everyone continues to be extremely proud of, I mean through the roof proud, like constant goose bumps. I guess partly because it is a smaller newspaper.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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