The Curse of the Pulitzers

The Curse of the Pulitzers

The Curse of the Pulitzers

A mostly political Weblog.
April 5 2005 1:38 AM

The Curse of the Pulitzers

Plus--Naked, unbridled scooplust at WaPo!

Not quite there yet: DNC chair Howard Dean, speaking recently in Tennessee, recognizes it's probably a mistake to tell "moral issues" voters to their faces that they're stupid. But beyond that it's not clear he's made much progress:

We have to acknowledge people's fears. It's not just about gay rights and abortion. It's fear of what happens to their families. What they need is a signal from the Democratic Party that we're going to make it easier for them to raise their kids. The mistake is to think we're going to talk people out of their fears. These are not logical fears. Most kids will turn out fine, even in this era of bad stuff on television and things like that. You cannot sit down and logically explain to people why they have their fears. [Emph. added]

'There, there, you worried irrational people. My pollster's told me about you. We're on your side, however illogical your pathetic little fears!' ... From vilification to condescension. This is progress in the Democratic Party. P.S.: Of course, Dean's clumsiness will mainly serve to make Hillary look good. ...The table is being set. ... It's all going according to plan. ... 10:17 P.M.

Damn you, Pulitzers! Alert and anguished L.A. reader "G"--not me! And not Brady Westwater neither!--writes:

Two more Pulitzers are going on the wall at the L.A. Times, which means the editors at Spring St. can delude themselves, for at least another year, with the belief they are putting out a decent newspaper.

Prizes, which award either prestige or cash, are meant to reward, and thereby encourage, good behavior. ... And, at their best, the Pulitzer Prizes encourage papers to pursue serious journalism. The possibility of a Pulitzer is a good reason for an editor at a small paper with a limited budget to let a reporter spend a lot of time investigating a local scandal.  ... But at large papers ... the Pulitzers are reinforcing bad behavior. At the LA Times, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and every other large paper in the country, editors year in and year out mount big projects with Pulitzers in mind ... (Did you make your way through even one of the NYT's Pulitzer-winning Race in America series? I didn't think so.) Typically these projects are snoozes which have their largest readership among Pulitzer judges. ... But at the WSJ and NYT, that's okay. Both papers are excellent despite their Pulitzer pursuits.

But by continuing to hand out prizes to the LAT, the Pulitzer committee is complicit in the journalistic disaster in Los Angeles. This is not to say that it's King/Drew series or Kim Murphy's reporting from Russia weren't excellent. ... Or that the four Pulitzers it brought in last year were undeserved. Under [John] Carroll and [Dean] Baquet, the LAT does national politics and foreign reporting about as well as anyone out there.

But for some reason that high quality journalism seems to stop at the Los Angeles County line. Local coverage (that is the daily stuff that isn't in a prize-bait series) is shoddy. Anyone who actually lives in L.A. and is dependent on the local paper for news and analysis of L.A. will be sorely disappointed.

There's every reason to pop champagne bottles and give self-congratulatory speeches in the newsroom today. But tomorrow, please mull this thought over: winning Pulitzers may be the thing that the LA Times does best. Which is a kinder way of saying, no matter how many Pulitzers go up on the wall each year, from the vantage of your local readers, you still put out a lousy paper. [Emph. added]

I suspect declining circulation numbers and heat from the Chicago boys at Tribune Co. may get the message to Carroll & Baquet through the celebratory haze. .... 7:26 P.M. link

Anti-Lutz Putsch? GM  scales back press fave "car guy" Bob Lutz's authority? ... The Lutz blog is unhelpful in explaining what this means. ... Does GM think the news will get buried under the Pope's death? Doesn't it know Jo Moore Day was last Friday? (Sandy Berger knew!) ... 3:38 P.M.

Blogging in Print: According to de facto MSM Damage Controller Howie Kurtz, WaPo's Mike Allen is apparently now admitting what has been obvious to everyone else  who has followed the controversy over those alleged "GOP Talking Points": the Post's stories were not entirely  "accurate and carefully worded"  (Kurtz's words), nor is it true that Allen "stuck to what we knew to be true and did not call them talking points or a Republican memo." Instead, he let an early version of his story ship out containing the unsupported claim that the memo was "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." [Emph. added] ...

Obviously at some point Allen thought or assumed the memo was a GOP leadership document, and before he'd nailed that down he temporarily let his scooplust get the better of him. This is a perfectly forgivable mistake. At least I hope it is--I make it all the time. You get all excited thinking you have a great story and then when you think more about it you realize you have a not-quite-as-great story, so you go back and make it "carefully worded"!  ...

The problem is that the MSM is now claiming that it's somehow better at balancing the urge to scoop with the need to check than non-MSM writers.As cartoonish LAT credential-snob David Shaw put it: