The Pulitzer committee voted to recognize some online content in its prizes. Specifically, the content must be connected in some way to a print publication. The Pulitzer Web site has most of the information, including a PDF of the new rule.
There is some carping about the fact that these awards will be tied to print journalism. Most agree that it's a step, though not a big one. Jeff Jarvis calls it a "wimpy step."
In the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) Salon Editor in Chief Joan Walsh offers up the following:
"They have to figure out a way to honor the very best journalism… and not merely protect the newspaper industry, which is kind of what this decision looks like," said Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon, a 10-year-old online publication. "Over time, they are going to have to confront some definitional issues, no question about it. If they want to follow their readers, they should start by being more creative about their decisions."This would actually be a fundamental shift in what the Pulitzers are. Right now there are no broadcast Pulitzers, the closest is the Columbia DuPont Awards, which are also awarded by Columbia University, though less well known. So the Pulitzers do not represent the best in journalism, only the best in PRINT journalism. This decision actually recognizes the fact that print publications are doing more work on the Web.
A few years ago Sreenath Sreenivasen, current dean of the J-school, helped launch the Online Journalism Awards, which aimed to be the online equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes. I haven't heard much buzz about them in the past few years, so I'm not sure how much traction they received.
Regardless, the Pulitzer board recognized what it needed to recognize: that it's own constituency is doing good work that doesn't end up in print. As for awarding journalism that only appears online, that's a different decision altogether.