You’re not going to win a Pulitzer Prize

… and neither am I. Nor will any blogger, including those far more deserving.

The Pulitzer folks, stewards of one of the most influential and important awards in any field, have just announced their new rules. You can win a Pulitzer for commentary online now, but only if the place you post your commentary is a significant news gathering site. You know, sites like MinnPost and Voice of San Diego. So, Tom Friedman can win a well-deserved prize for writing what is essentially a blog for the NY Times, but if he goes off on his own, he’s out.

What a shame.

As newspapers melt all around us, faster and faster, the people in the newspaper business persist in believing that the important element of a news-paper is the paper part.

What an opportunity (for someone) to start taking advantage of the huge pool of talent and passion that is moving online, and to work to raise the bar. We don’t need more gossip sites from celebrity magazine editors. We need to identify and reward voices that push hard against the status quo, that report eagerly and accurately and that speak truth to power.

Here’s what we’re going to miss, and quite soon: the cost of having a printing press and the money to run one meant that there were newspapers with gravitas. Newspapers that invested for the long haul, that stood for something, that spoke up. When you can launch a blog for nothing and disappear quite easily if it doesn’t work, the gravitas is a lot more difficult to find. When the newspapers are gone (and it’s happening a lot faster than the people in the industry are able to admit) that’s what we’re going to miss the most.

The opportunity, then, is to organize and network and identify and reward that activity when it happens online. Not because the site is owned by a paper or because the founder has connections to the old media. No, because they’re doing work that matters.

If I ran the Pulitzers, I’d hand out a dozen more every year to people working exclusively online.