Why Does a Mainstream Media Outlet Want a Share of this Non-profit Digital Site’s Pulitzer?

OK, the headline is a maybe over the top, but the sentiment isn’t. Why does a mainstream media TV news organization want a cut of a non-profit digital site’s Pulitzer?

cpi pulitzer announcementThe non-profit digital news site Center for Public Integrity was awarded its first Pulitzer Prize this week for its in-depth, dogged reporting on miners systematically denied medical care for black lung and related conditions. The top prize in journalism is a major feat for any news organization, much less a digital non-profit.

That would be where the happy story ends… except Poynter today is reporting on a project partner who’s less impressed with the award, not because it wasn’t deserved but because they felt like they deserved the credit too. The reporting was shared with the ABC News team, allowing the black lung project to reach a significantly wider audience.

The CPI team argues its reporter did the bulk of the reporting, pouring over documents for a year, and rightfully deserves the award. ABC News president, in a 4-page letter to CPI, says his team was an equal partner. You can see the CPI series here. See the ABC news stories here.

The whole situation raises some interesting questions about the nature of the collaborative partnerships between nonprofit news groups, digital sites and mainstream news outlets. ABC has a bigger platform to disseminate the stories the CPI team reported, certainly. But where does the line get drawn when awards are handed out? This is relevant as other groups, such as ProPublica, often partner with other outlets to split reporting and disseminate stories to bigger potential audiences. How do you split the accolades?

Go read the whole back and forth here at Poynter.

What do you think? Does ABC’s argument make the grade, or are they sour grapes over something they should celebrate?