The administrator of the Pulitzer Prize board said today that the National Enquirer is "ineligible" for the nation's top journalism prize, dashing the flamboyant tabloid's hopes of taking the award for breaking a story about John Edwards' mistress and love child.
When Edwards confirmed Thursday that he fathered a daughter with the campaign's hired videographer Rielle Hunter, the Enquirer announced it would submit its reporting for the prize, calling its work "good, old-fashioned reporting."
Besides forcing Edwards to finally admit paternity, the National Enquirer's revelations have also led to a federal investigation into whether Edwards' campaign broke any laws by continuing to pay Hunter after she stopped working for the campaign.
News of the Enquirer's plans sparked a debate among journalists about whether a supermarket tabloid that pays for information was deserving of the top honor.
According to the Pulitzer's rules, however, the Enquirer may be ineligible on a technicality.
"We checked the Enquirer Web site, and it apparently calls itself a magazine. Under our rules, magazines (both print and Web versions) and broadcast entities are ineligible," said the prize administrator Sig Gissler in an e-mail, to ABCNews.com.
Online, the Enquirer calls itself "the ORIGINAL celebrity entertainment magazine."
Furthermore, the upcoming prize awards stories written only in 2009. Given that the bulk of the Enquirer's reporting was done in 2007 and 2008 during the presidential campaign, the Enquirer would be ineligible on further grounds, Gissler said.
The tabloid said it plans to submit its stories to the prize for consideration by the Feb. 1 deadline anyway, and said the board members need to "get their heads out of the sand."
"Obviously, they're looking for excuses rather than have to objectively review our submission," said executive editor Barry Levine.
"If it wasn't this they would come up with another excuse, paying tipsters or something else. The Pulitzer committee needs to get their heads out of sand and recognize that media organizations like the National Enquirer, bloggers, Web sites, and local new news gathering sites made up of laid off reporters are the new face of American journalism and doing the heavy lifting," said Levine.
"The Pulitzer board wants to pretend we're still living in dark ages and won't recognize the National Enquirer because it's embarrassing to award a supermarket tabloid," he said. "But they should come to grips that the way journalism is practiced in America has totally changed."
Levine said he believed the Enquirer, once known for salacious gossip rather than investigative reporting, merited a Pulitzer on the merits of its work.
"Our investigative team deserves the Pulitzer Prize for the work on John Edwards and certainly deserves some respect from the mainstream media, which avoided this story, ran from this story for months and months while this man ran for president," said Barry Levine, the Enquirer's executive editor.
"[Edwards] could have changed outcome of election because of his lies and a cover-up," said Levine. "The government of the U.S. says the reporting we did about misappropriating hush money could mean a crime was committed by a man running for president. While the grand jury is still out on whether to indict him, the fact that it's going on attests to the fact that our reporting mattered."