By now, you’ve all seen this

A picture of a Deepwater Horizon soiled wave oozing onto an Alabama beach:

Many have said they find the picture sadder and more disgusting–and, consequentially, more touching–than the pictures of ruined pelicans which circulate so widely in Old Media.

Every site I’ve seen the picture on attributes traces it back to the unfortunately named blog The Ecoterrorist (“document[ing] humyn-made environmental disasters”), and I’ve found no further attribution. As far as I know, the photo originated with the blog. Now, it is one of the most heavily circulated and highly praised images to come out of  BP coverage. Which leads me to ask: Is it time to give a blogger a Pulitzer for photojournalism?

If the picture was taken to illustrate a current event for the public, and if many describe that illustration the most poignant to come out of the story, why should it be excluded from recognition?

Because of what it would mean for Old Media. When the Pulitzer Foundation starts recognizing citizen journalists as having incidentially surpassed their conventional counterparts, it will signal, if not the death of the industry, the moment for a revolution of organization. Though reporters’ politics skew left, the publications industry is profoundly institutionally conservative; they are proud of what they do, not just for what their work is, but for where it situates them in the history of democracy. This is not a legacy they want to concede.

They won’t have to; hopefully, future editors will be able to sustain a news-delivery system that can still maintain the deep pool of resources needed to fund investigative reporting. But it will, in all likelihood, be radically different from the current system. Something will be lost–maybe the crispiness of newsprint and friendly filth of inkstains–but we’ll keep what’s worthiest. Hopefully.

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