The European Press Prize director, Thomas van Neerbos, reflects on the new Public Discourse Award, its meaning and purpose, within the Prize mission to celebrate journalism.
We are proud of the brave journalists not just reporting about what is happening, but dare reflecting on it. Our Public Discourse Award – formerly known as the Opinion Award and before that as the Commentator Award – now clearly aims to celebrate that reflection. This way, the category distinctly does what it always has done: show clear thinking, instigate debate and share ideas.
Our former descriptions of ‘opinion’ and ‘commentator’ – ranging from 3,000 word essays to 100 word editorials – were perhaps a bit too broad to receive entries our Preparatory Committee and Panel of Judges could properly compare. It is difficult to assess the quality of a piece by a columnist on something a local politician said eight months ago, and almost impossible to compare a timeless piece on identity with a rebuttal of an election result.
“This category awards work that is urgent long after its publication, work that can instigate public debate and discourse and has value for all people reading it.”
Therefore, instead of casting a wider and wider net, we now want to be more specific: with the Public Discourse Award, we choose to aim for those works our judging bodies can adequately compare and assess, works that transcend dates and regions, works that won this category year after year anyway.
This category awards work that is urgent long after its publication, work that can instigate public debate and discourse and has value for all people reading it. Changing the name and requirements of this category will help our judging bodies select the best pieces out there, will help us share these pieces, and will help the authors behind these pieces create the public debate they aimed for, on a European level.