At the Oscars of Journalism: A Win for Bloggers


By Kyle Austin

While the Oscar winners adorned the front of the New York Times Arts Section yesterday, a blogger was plastered on the front of the Business Day section – The second being a far more impressive feat. Last week Joshua Micah Marshall was honored with the prestigious George Polk Award for legal reporting. 

The Polk Awards, truly the Oscars of journalism excellence, recognize journalistic integrity, superb reporting and protecting the public.  Established by Long Island University in 1949 to memorialize CBS correspondent George Polk who was slain covering a civil war in Greece, the Polk Awards have become one of America’s most coveted journalism honors. 

While the recognition is always newsworthy, Mr. Marshall’s win caught more attention then previous winners, for one simple reason – He’s not technically a journalist.  He’s a blogger.  Marshall who is the editor and publisher of the well known political blog “Talking Points Memo,” was recognized for “leading the news media coverage of the politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys across the country, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,” on the Talking Points Memo as well as on its sister site “tpmMuckraker.com.” 

The win marked the first time an internet-only news organization was honored with a Polk Award. After numerous black eyes in the media as of late, including GizmodoGate, the win is a huge win for the blogging community as it still struggles to gain trust, recognition and respect among the general public.

Noam Cohen who penned the piece on Marshall’s story for Business Day highlighted the importance of the win for the blogging community nicely: 

“To scores of bloggers, it was a case of local boy makes good. Many took it as vindication of their enterprise — that anyone can assume the mantle of reporting on the pressing issues affecting the nation and the world, with the imprimatur of a mainstream media outlet or not. And most reassuringly, it showed that fair numbers of people out there were paying attention.” 

However, even Marshall has a slightly different interpretation of his craft: 

“I think of us as journalists; the medium we work in is blogging.  We have kind of broken free of the model of discrete articles that have a beginning and end. Instead, there are an ongoing series of dispatches.”  

That’s what gives bloggers more power then any singular news organization.  No longer are articles and topics separate and distinct.  Journalists and their readers feed of each other.  Everything and everyone is connected and isn’t that what World 2.0 is all about? 

As Dan Kennedy, a professor at Northeastern, notes in the New York Times piece and on his blog; Dan Gillmor may sum up the new media landscape best with this line:

 “I take it for granted … that my readers know more than I do — and this is a liberating, not threatening, fact of journalistic life.”

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