Of course the National Enquirer should be eligible for a Pulitzer Prize
The editor of the National Enquirer is openly angling for a Pulitzer Prize for the tabloid's expose of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter, secret love child, and alleged use of campaign funds to underwrite his indiscretions.
I tend to agree with John Cook of Gawker on this one, the National Enquirer should probably be in the running. Like it or not, this was one of the big scoops of the year. Well, the last two years, really. As an investigative reporter, I like to see institutions rewarded for investing in old fashioned investigations. An insider didn't just hand this story to the Enquirer on a silver platter, they went out and dug for it.
Just to be clear, I'm not hoping the Enquirer's Edwards coverage wins. At end of the day, it was mostly tawdry gossip. It was tawdry gossip that assumed meta-importance because everyone knows that gossip influences elections, but still.
Besides, Edwards was already politically finished by the time the Enquirer nailed down the details. I'm sure the Pulitzer judges can find reporting that had a bigger impact, maybe even work that exposed injustice or--gasp--made someone's life better.
Enquirer's reputation of paying for information should complicate its Pulitzer ambitions. That's generally considered a no-no in mainstream journalism. That said, big news outlets routinely find ways to pay celebrity interview subjects without paying them. For example, sometimes they'll pay the subject a ridiculous fee to license some snapshot of the person with the understanding that the photograph comes with an exclusive interview.
According to John Cook, there's nothing in the Pulitzer rulebook that disqualifies checkbook journalism. But that doesn't mean that judges shouldn't take reporting methods into account. Information volunteered freely is generally better and more reliable journalism than the word of paid informants.
It would also be harmful to the profession to openly reward checkbook journalism. (If that's actually what the Edwards coverage was based on.) If pay-to-pay becomes the norm, journalism becomes even more of a gated community. When it comes time to hand out awards, corporations that buy scoops should get less consideration than reporters who earn them the old fashioned way.
We don't know that the Enquirer paid for info in the Edwards story. Rumor has it that there were plenty of disgruntled people willing to spill for free. If the Enquirer's editor can assure the Pulitzer judges that his reporters played by generally accepted journalistic rules, then the series should at least be a serious contender for the prize--assuming the judges find the editor's claims credible.
Cook does a good job of debunking several the nitpicky excuses for disqualifying the Edwards coverage outright, such as the claim that the Enquirer isn't eligible because it isn't really a newspaper.
Treating the Enquirer's Edwards reporting a serious Pulitzer contender is like nominating Avatar for Best Picture. I seriously doubt it was the year's best film, but an endeavor that succeeds so spectacularly on its own terms deserves to be nominated.