Since I started yesterday with a cartoon about an eclipse that was over before you got here, I’ll start today’s with some thoughts about the Pulitzers, which won’t be announced until 1 p.m. by which you’ll probably have read this.
JP Trostle launched a most bodacious rant about the Editorial Cartoonist category yesterday, reprinted by Bado on his blog, though you might want to find the Facebook version in order to read the responses from other cartoonists, of which this is my favorite:
In theory, editorial cartoonists should be iconoclasts who care less about trophies than we do about speaking our minds. — Bob Gorrell
I rarely agree with Gorrell’s politics but I am 100% in tune with his comment here. Plaques are for the sort of people who need plaques, and political commentators ought not to.
The above illustration is something I put together to amuse my boss at a point when the newsroom was patting themselves on the back for awards won, the joke being that the statewide awards were by circulation category and our paper was one of three in that bracket.
Obviously, the Pulitzers are more prestigious than, for instance, the journalism awards in New Jersey, which one year were handed out with such generosity that they had to provide advance instructions for getting on and off stage for group photos in order to keep the evening from going on forever.
As Trostle says, “It’s a misnomer to state that anything that wins a prize is objectively ‘the best’ of that thing in that category.”
First of all, being “nominated” means getting your editor to send in your portfolio and pop for $75, which is more about the internal politics of your newsroom than the quality of your work.
Second, awards tend to follow trends. Most of the plaques in my closet are for unremarkable work on timely topics, the exception being one for a story that resulted in federal legislation, but that was rewarding a flamboyant result more than the journalism that went into it.
Trostle sums it up well:
Awards are designed to draw attention to the institutions handing out those awards, and promote the interests the people running those contests feel is most important. You could go through this rant and replace “Pulitzer” with ‘Oscar” or “Emmy” and get the same result.
The Pulitzers are a bit more meaningful than that: The Oscars go to big-budget extravaganzas like “Braveheart” because of all the costumers and lighting people and so forth who get to vote.
The Pulitzers do reward good work. But they’re still just plaques, and the days when plaques protected you from being laid off are well over.
Still, it’s good to win. Congrats in advance to whoever is named, and DD Degg will have coverage, so come back for a look.
But after the sheetcake and cheap bubbly is gone, there will still be a piece of blank Bristol board on the table, or a blank screen on the Wacom.
So let’s look at who has been filling them up well lately:
All American Juxtaposition of the Day
A double dose of good news came from Indian country, giving Marty Two Bulls a chance to celebrate twice.
The more local piece is that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was denied permission to shoot off fireworks at Mt. Rushmore, and let’s begin by noting that, in Indian country, depicting people in cavalry uniforms does not signal admiration for them.
As noted in that linked article, the Cheyenne River Sioux joined the suit against her exhibition because of ongoing controversy over the Black Hills, which, in 1980, the Supreme Court ruled were taken from the Lakota in violation of treaties.
The nation has turned down the court-ordered $1 billion payment, which adds credibility to the idea that the abandonment of the Keystone Pipeline is a matter of principle and pride rather than money, given that they surely could have demanded payouts if money mattered.
As Two Bulls puts it, it was a matter of the war eagle defeating the black snake.
And speaking of awards, as we were, Joe Sacco’s brilliant “Paying the Land,” reviewed here, is up for an Eisner in the category of Best Reality Based Work, and I do think Eisners matter because they can impact both sales and bookstore shelf-placement.
“Paying the Land” examines the far end of that pipeline, where the tar sands of the Athabascan have real economic impact on the Dine people, for better or for worse.
And I’m sorry that it’s up against Derf Backderf’s equally brilliant “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio,” reviewed here.
They are both what journalism is supposed to be about.
Juxtaposition of the Day #2
Steve Sack makes a good move, connecting Jeff Bezos’ plans to play spaceman with the Pro Publica revelations of tax-dodging by these multibillionaires, and I would add that I heard people talking about the tax issue at the park yesterday, so maybe it’s sinking in.
I hope so, because Brodner and Margulies both cite the fact that the information came from leaked documents.
In the Pentagon Papers case, the Supreme Court basically ruled that publication of the admittedly stolen, classified material was protected under the First Amendment, that it was the theft/leak that was illegal.
I don’t know that tax records are “classified” but the IRS files were sure as hell stolen, and, in those situations, you have to decide if the revelations are worth the cost.
Under NYTimes v United States, Pro Publica itself should be off the hook, but, as Brodner indicates, that doesn’t mean they won’t be pressured to reveal their sources, and let’s remember that Daniel Ellsburg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, was only saved from prison by the illegal interference and monumental incompetence of the White House in pursuing him.
The journalists may not be at risk for having published the information, but they could be for having received it, and for failing to identify the source.
Before you run the risk, you should know your priorities.
Well, I’ve been handed a lot of Lucite plaques but only one subpoena.
Didn’t even have to rent a tux.