Pulitzer Prize

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NewsdayPulitzer

The award, as yellow as the rags that Joseph Pulitzer published

The Pulitzer Prize, an American award of much prestige and nobility, is offered for excellence in journalism, musical composition and literature. It was founded by Joseph Pulitzer, the originator of loathsome gossip-mongering and scandal-obsessed literature. Perhaps he set up the prize out of a massive guilt trip after making millions from journalistic holocausts. But let us get the facts right before we distort them later on to suit a particular political perspective...It is also said that Pulitzer wanted to create a prize which favoured fiction over non-fiction. According to Wikipedia, 'The ability to create fiction is... one of the defining characteristics of humanity'. It is refreshing to see Wikipedia get it right for once.

And yet, many proper artists have won the award, such as Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, Wynton Marsalis and Roger Ebert. The award is given to American artists only, because the British are too stuffy, the French too pretentious, the Germans too pretentiously stuffy. The board could not be bothered to come up with a list of other thinly-veiled objections to why other countries should not be considered so they settled with these three as reasons why only Americans are awarded it. That said, public opinion (viz. the assorted senior management of major media outlets and loud-voiced news broadcasters) is highly in favour of the prize.

edit Joseph Pulitzer

Pulitzer

Joseph, attempting to grab the headlines again (or at least block out ones that do not mention him)

Again, quoting Wikipedia, Pulitzer was responsible for 'posthumously establishing the Pulitzer Prize'. Really? So he managed to discover the secret of coming back from the dead, and on resuming life all he did was found a prize for literary achievement!? It seems quite trifling really that we remember him for a literature prize and not for being a real-life Lazarus. But then again, Wikipedia could just be wrong.

Anyhow, he was born in Hungary in the 1840s, but found nothing interesting to do there (other than get shot at by Germans desperate for Hungarian land, money, and some goulash in no particular order). He emigrated to America, joined the Republican Party, got bored, then joined the Democrat Party, got bored of politics altogether, and then used all the money he'd made out of politics to set up his newspaper. He shifted its focus from reasoned, if somewhat tedious treatises on serious ideas and issues to the nitpicking of celebrities lives in all their vast vacuity. (Yes, thanks to Pulitzer and Hearst, nowadays the magazine section in any store is a garish library of stupidity and meaningless gossip. And what's worse is, if ever you had the insane compulsion to read any of it, you'd have to pay for it[1] Unlike a proper library.)

Pulitzer's paper was selling quicker than Speedy Gonzalez in subatomic form, and he even got elected to the House of Representatives! But he was forever bored of politics, preferring the publication of idle talk or a far more fulfilling vocation, and so he left after a month. He must have felt that he'd wasted his formative years in the U.S.A trying to get into politics the hard way[2]; all he really needed to do was set up a newspaper!

Pulitzer started supplementing his newspapers with comics, though it would have probably been more popular for him to have affixed a free tub of fresh grass, given his bovine readership. He did use the money for a good cause - setting up a school of journalism, which still runs today (though the tuition fees are as astronomical as the complete, combined works of Copernicus and Galileo). He died, aged 65, on his way to a winter home.

edit Current awards

As of 2007, the Pulitzer Prize allows the submission of 'online elements' in its journalism category. Some awards have been introduced since its inception, some discontinued, but its commitment to honouring journalistic reportage is still intact, in homage to its founder.

edit For Journalism

The current prize definitions are:

  • Public service - An editorial or report provided to the public at the public's expense, awarding a journalist merely for doing his job properly: Serving the guys who keep you in a job.
  • Breaking news service - This prize is awarded for an example of annoying news bulletins that invariably interrupt the one, single, decent programme that you can stand to watch on TV once a week. These bulletins more often than not never mention any breakages of any kind.
  • Local reporting - Given for an example of 'reporting that illuminates significant issues or concerns' (e. g. Rises in local bus fares)
  • National reporting - Given for a notable example of reporting that sheds light on national issues and concerns, by a writer who thought himself above local minutiae. (e. g. Rises in inter-state bus fares).
  • International Reporting — for a distinguished example of reporting on international affairs, by a writer who did not particularly care about national affairs. (E. g. comparisons between bus fares in the USA and other non-eligible-for-Pulitzer countries).
  • Feature writing - Given for journalists who write articles so vague that they cannot be characterised as local, national, or international, or more importantly, good. At best they feature evidence of writing.
  • Commentary - Usually given for writing impassioned commentary on the features themselves, and hence they advance to a higher level of vagueness.
  • Criticism - As above, so long as it is not critical of anyone on the Pulitzer panel.
  • Feature photography - Given to an image which captures vagueness in action.
  • Editorial Writing - Awarded to pieces which are thought to be more important because the guy or girl at the top wrote them, and for those pieces which serve to make public opinion more fickle than it already is.
Hemingway with shotgun

Getting the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 enabled Ernest Hemingway to purchase a rare shotgun he had wanted for a long time.

edit Drama and Letters

In addition to the above awards, there are six categories in drama and letters:

  • Fiction - Given to works which have a high number of fictoids, pieces of trivia and information which are utterly false. (Curiously, perhaps a symptom of the times, that no award is given for Fact).
  • Drama - Given to works which, like all dramas, make mountains out of molehills.
  • History - Written by persons who otherwise would not be part of history.
  • Autobiography - An award given to persons who cannot help but tell their stories, and the resulting work is never written or made by hand, for then it would be a manualbiography. As a result the pages often fall out of these books, which may be no bad thing.
  • Poetry - Given to works which, as Plato said, say true things without meaning, and meaningful things which are not true, though the great percentage of its lines fall into the latter category. If you manage to achieve the rare poetic feat of expressing things which are neither true or meaningful, you can be short-listed for the ancillary Dan Quayle award.
  • General Non-Fiction - The best award, in my view. This is given to works which bravely resist all attempts at being pigeon-holed, without realising that it falls into the category of the 'Non-Categorizable'.

Being the most abstract of the arts, Music has its own category, though the Pulitzer Board invariably awards those artists who make the least abstract music.

edit Winners

Wynton Marsalis-250

Winning the Pulitzer Prize didn't allow Wynton to buy the snazzy suit that he's wearing at the minute, but it did enable him to pay the photographer's fee more comfortably.

The board distinguishes between 'entrants' (a.k.a. no-hopers), those who have merely submitted their work for consideration, and 'nominated finalists' (a.k.a. relatives of the panel of judges). All of the finalists are read out for each award before the winner is finally announced. The losing finalists have the indignity of having to display their envy cordially as the winner receives the prize.

Winners usually receive anything within the range of $7,500-20,000; a handsome fee indeed - as the photo to the right so richly illustrates.[3]

Joseph Pulitzer once wrote: "The Power to Mould the Future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations". What a terrifying thought that is. And the Pulitzer Prize is testament to the realization of this nightmare - perhaps winners of this award should consider the ethics of this, before we have vastly powerful and fraudulent magnates who are able to control several newspapers, television outlets, media corporations, and hence governments. In days gone by we had Walter Kronkite, journalistic ethics and editorial columns worth reading. Nowadays we have Bill O' Reilly, phone-hackings more commonplace than a general strike in Greece and editorial columns which seem like they have been written under some sort of inquisitorial duress. Perhaps Pulitzer was right.

edit Discontinued awards

In fairness to the Pulitzer Board, they have displayed the notion of subtraction and simplification that inevitably leads to human progress. For instance, we started off with many gods, and now most of us accept there is either one or none at all (Though most people are happier with the idea that their opponents on the issue don't exist and some have gone to great lengths to ensure this). Moreover, we started off with many commandments (10 in fact) and have now narrowed it down to one or none, if the Nihilists are to be believed.[4].

In the same vein, the Pulitzer Board have discontinued many awards. Well, discontinue is a strong word - rename would be more accurate. For instance, they renamed the prize for Beat Reporting to Local Reporting when the likes of Ginsberg and Kerouac died. They changed the prize for Explanatory Journalism to Explanatory Reporting, when they realised what journalism really was. The next award to be discontinued will probably be the Public Service award, which will probably be replaced by the more accurately titled: Public Disservice. There are rumours that even the Pulitzer itself might be discontinued in favour of the more satirical Poo Lit Surprise, featured on this very website. But these are rumours. I must end this article here, as I am working on an ultramodern, colouristic default generic Windows XP wallpapers series of abstract photo for the Feature Photography award.

edit Notes

  1. It is suggested by many that it is far more beneficial, healthier and stimulating to give your eyes a long, intensive course in irreversible acupuncture than it is to read such nonsense. The hard-up amongst us can always use cocktail sticks.
  2. Saying absolutely anything that will get you elected to the Senate, or at least keep you ahead in the opinion polls
  3. This fee will invariably inflate with time
  4. The one commandment we seem to adhere to these days, is ignoring the original Ten Commandments
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