Rich OppelRich Oppel

When this year’s Pulitzers were announced last week, they confirmed some fascinating and important realities about the future of media in a fast-paced, digital-first environment.

Just two examples:

Fact #1: Reporters for the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune were awarded the investigative reporting prize for collaborative reporting on escalating violence in Florida mental hospitals.

Think about it: Once, these two newspapers were fierce competitors, fighting over hundreds of thousands of readers in Manatee County, FL, which separates them. Now their reporters are sharing Pulitzer champagne!

Lessons: Don’t believe the diminished strength of one publication means diminished strength across journalism. Media organizations are realigning and reorganizing to sustain quality and strength. More limited resources mean old competitors are now new partners.

Fact #2: Reporters from ProPublica and The Marshall Project won the Explanatory Reporting Pulitzer for an exposé of law enforcement’s enduring failure to investigate reports of rape properly and to comprehend the traumatic effects on its victims.

Think about it: These two organizations are independent, nonprofit online organizations funded by wealthy donors. Pro Publica, started in 2007 and edited by former New York Times Washington bureau chief Steve Engelberg, focuses on investigative journalism in the public interest. The Marshall Project, started in 2013 and edited by former Times executive editor Bill Keller, concentrates on criminal justice.

Lessons: Non-profits are on the rise. They exist on the state and national level. Very experienced reporters and editors often staff the nonprofit newsrooms. Don’t dismiss them.

These changes play out in Austin, too. The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV years ago entered into a deal sharing news, including a jointly conducted, hard-hitting investigation of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

New media partnerships and players largely share values of old media, but they confront reporting in some different ways, make heavy use of data analysis and publish on a variety of platforms — print, online and broadcast. They exist in a fast-paced, digital-first media consumption environment. This complicated environment requires smart and evolving communications strategies led by experienced hands that know the new journalists and understand the coming future.

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Rich Oppel Sr. was chairman of the Pulitzer Board in 2008-2009 and has been editor of three newspapers. He now serves as senior advisor for media strategy and engagement at Crosswind Media and Public Relations.