CSotD: I’ve been thrown out of classier joints


Well, I stand by yesterday’s post, and I’m glad that it — and JP Trostle’s “epic rant” — got said before Columbia University and their Pulitzer Committee delivered that stunning mean-girl snub because otherwise it might sound like sour grapes.

As I wrote then

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. … 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.

Twitter has blown up with outrage, some people simply expressing fury, but some making more specific points, including two insiders who reported that, last year, the Committee ignored the three finalists sent up by the judges and, instead, gave the award to New Yorker cover artist Barry Blitt.

I’d note that they praised Blitt’s work, but were offended by the high-handed slap at the committee’s own judges and cited the fact that Blitt isn’t out there in the daily trenches like a newspaper cartoonist.

Some suggested they break the category up the way news coverage and photography are divided, so that quick-fire deadline commentary is separate from graphic novels, long-form essays and similar longer-planned graphic content.

However, a look at the “Breaking News Photography” and “Feature Photography” awards over the years shows a very muddled distinction between what I’d call breaking news and what I’d call continuing coverage.

The fact that they keep giving “breaking news” awards to entire staffs for coverage of ongoing events rather than once-in-a-lifetime shots makes it clear that the committee doesn’t grasp the difference between breaking news, ongoing coverage and features.

Which might explain why they don’t understand the various forms of graphic expression either.

The AAEC was firm in its official response:

(We can discuss entry fees another day, but if you sell $75 tickets for a $15,000 lottery, you’d damn well better not throw up your hands at the end and say, “Nobody won!” and then keep the money.)

I was struck by the fact that other organizations, like the Herb Block Foundation, have spoken up.

As have Earth Media and the Cartoonists Rights Network International:

To which I would add my own observation that I would certainly not recommend anyone attend a Graduate School of Journalism whose experts are unable to find a worthy commentator in a year like the one we have just experienced.

Granted, that’s not much change from my long-held belief that the only reason to get a J-school degree is so the drones in HR can tick that box off on their little list and grant you a job interview with someone from the newsroom.

Which job, if you get it, had damn well better pay more than I ever made by slinging ink.

Well, never mind. In contrast to me, the three bridesmaids responded with dignity:


The story won’t be over until we see if the Pulitzer folks come down from their ivory tower and rethink the future of this category.

But there’s this: When Nellie Bly completed her “Around the World in 72 Days” series, she didn’t get a bonus or any sort of prize from Joseph Pulitzer, despite all the revenues and circulation her feature had piled up on his behalf.

Apparently, he was pissed at her because, shortly before that feature stunt, she’d dug in for one of her for-real journalistic exposes, this time of a quack who threatened the paper with a lawsuit.

Nellie took Pulitzer’s snub quietly, but left the paper shortly thereafter.

Thus starting a tradition of prizes quixotically awarded and prizes quixotically withheld.

Since Nellie is no longer around, I’ll let another ass-kicking feminist — 2001 Pulitzer Prize Winner Ann Telnaes — close out today’s comments, with a piece she created in 2019 for the Bertelsmann Foundation:

But, hey, Columbia: No hard feelings. Hope you had a good celebration last night.

6 thoughts on “CSotD: I’ve been thrown out of classier joints

  1. Dear Mike,

    You write “Blitt isn’t out there in the daily trenches like a (daily) newspaper cartoonist”.
    His job is indeed more difficult as he must think up ideas that will hold up for many days.


  2. Yes, but, as I said, those more long-range pieces ought to be in a different category, just as covering breaking news isn’t the same as writing a Sunday feature. I love Blitt’s work, but it’s not the same as having a cartoon ready for the next day’s paper.

    Sometimes it’s indeed harder. Those up your way who responded to the residential school discoveries emotionally overnight may have had it easier than those who now are crafting the graphic commentary that must be more lasting and analytical.

  3. “Breaking News” has been so over used by cable news outfits, and so long of duration (lasting well after that particular item “broke”), that it means very little anymore, I fear.

  4. To paraphrase the late, great MORT WALKER from his book BACKSTAGE AT THE STRIPS:

    “They all hate cartoonists, anyway”

  5. As both a juror and a Columbia University employee, I can tell you that the university had absolutely nothing to do with this decision.

    The J-School oversees the process, but the Board makes the final decision.

    Again, as a juror this year in the cartooning category, I’m profoundly disappointed by this outcome.

  6. If the University has no input or oversight, might it be prudent for the University to stop supplying its name to the proceedings?

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