Couldn’t call it unexpected, and I never had any real prospect of winning, but solely from an entertainment standpoint, this was totally worth fifty bucks:
Dear Mr. Guerrieri:
Thank you for your interest in the Pulitzer Prizes. We would like to accept your entry but it does not fit within our rules.
Submitted online material must have appeared on a Web site “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories.” In our guidelines, we urge entrants to ask themselves if they “genuinely fit the criteria” and we specify that an entry’s cover letter should provide “ample evidence” of an online-only news organization’s “primary devotion to original news reporting.” We do not find the requirements to have been met.
I am very sorry to disappoint you. Although entry fees are non-refundable, we will make an exception in your case because this is a transitional period for the Pulitzers. In due course, we will return your check.
Sig Gissler, administrator
That turned up in my inbox yesterday, a response to my submitting a spiral-bound exhibit of Soho the Dog posts, seeing as how the Pulitzer board had made such a big deal about allowing “online-only” entries this year. Let’s look at the details, shall we? (Heck, if I was writing for The New York Times, I could do a six-part series, and that Pulitzer would be in the bag.)
Submitted online material must have appeared on a Web site “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories.”
Classical music has over a thousand years of history. That’s not “ongoing” enough for you?
In our guidelines, we urge entrants to ask themselves if they “genuinely fit the criteria”
Hey, self—do you genuinely fit the criteria? No, but my blog does.
and we specify that an entry’s cover letter should provide “ample evidence” of an online-only news organization’s “primary devotion to original news reporting.”
My primary devotion is to my wife. Well, that and plagiarism….
We do not find the requirements to have been met.
By the way, here’s what I submitted as the bulk of my entry: reviews from last summer’s all-Carter Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. Until it was pointed out to me, I thought that I had actually gone out to Tanglewood for a week and reported on what I saw. Now I know I was at home the entire time.
OK, OK, I’m no Seymour Hersh. I’m no Woodward and Bernstein. I’m not even Walter Duranty. But if my focus is criticism (or if it was, say, commentary, to bring up another Pulitzer category), why am I getting penalized for not doing more “original reporting”—when, if I had submitted newspaper reviews, the original reporting done by the paper’s other reporters would be enough to get me in? Here’s what that Duranty-justifying press release says:
a Pulitzer Prize for reporting is awarded not for the author’s body of work or for the author’s character but for the specific pieces entered in the competition
And yet the specific pieces I entered in the competition won’t even be considered because apparently I didn’t sufficiently justify my body of work. Guys, warn me when you’re going to unleash that kind of cognitive dissonance—I need time to appropriately pair it with the proper mind-altering chemicals.
Like I said, I didn’t have any expectation of winning. (I figured that if forcing jurors to read my best stuff led to even one bit of freelance work down the line, that pays for the entry fee several times over.) But the Pulitzer Board’s passive-aggressive attitude towards online writing is the comedy gift that keeps on giving.
In due course, we will return your check.
That’ll pay for a few days of drinking like a reporter, anyway.