Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And the Award Doesn't Go To...

In case you don’t know, the Pulitzer Prizes for the top pieces of journalism were recently announced.

In case you didn’t know (I hope you’re sitting down), I didn’t win one.

I know, little orangutan, I know.

To win a Pulitzer Prize, you have to submit one or a string of pieces. I obviously didn’t this year. It came real close, though, deciding between submitting the “Delco’s Cutest Pets” series and my riveting piece (culled from a police report) about a man that punched his dad after his parents found out he stole Easter candy.

I mulled the decision between the two so long that I missed the submission deadline.

The journalism world suffers for it and I'm not entirely sure my snub isn't the first sign of the journalism apocalypse.

The last sign: Geraldo "The Pale Horse" Rivera.

In all seriousness, looking through the list of award recipients, I was in awe of how good they were and how good I am not.

Going in, I thought, “Hey, I’m young, less than a year out of college. How could I expect to even win an award even among my newspaper’s own staff?”

Then I read the biography of Sara Ganim. (

She graduated three years ahead of me, she's a year younger than me and was already a police reporter at a real, full-fledged daily a year before she left school.

A year before I left school, I got drunk at one party and decided I wanted to re-learn how to do a handstand.

This is what being a prodigy looks like.

Ganim basically led the national coverage in every facet of the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State scandal.

I led national coverage in discovering where a human skull in a Radnor attic came from.

(SPOILER: It was actually a Halloween decoration, so I guess it came from Party City. I don’t actually know.)

It’s amazing how good these Pulitzer pieces are. Their sources are diverse and far-reaching and they get answers to questions that come after the questions I’d never even think of.

Some of the categories even intimidate me.

I took one look at “Explanatory Journalism” and said, “Hell no.”

During the summer, I did a piece on a new LED baby blanket that will, hopefully, one day cut down on deadly jaundice cases in Africa.

It took me a full week to even figure out what jaundice exactly was, much less any of the other complex and less-than-complex biological and technological pieces in that story.

"So, doc, you're saying this guy is not, in fact, medically, a werewolf?"

One Friday, in a bar earlier this year, I sat with my two buddies, John and Scott, the creators of the comic, “ReadySoup.”

We were discussing the tops in each of our fields and I asked them if there was a prize given out to the best comic artists and writers. They told me there was, in fact: the Eisner Awards.

I began laughing, leaning on the table.

“Alright, right now, here, let’s make a bet, a pact,” I said. “If you guys win an Eisner, you have to get it tattooed on your back.”

They laughed.

“And if I win the Pulitzer, I’ll get ‘Pulitzer Prize’ tattooed on my back,” I said, then added, laughing harder, “And then you also have to add the year you won it under a line, like you’re going to add more years for all the times you win it.”

We all smiled and shook on it, solemnly and merrily promising.

Whenever I get stuck with an assignment I don’t want to do or that I think is a little fluffy, I always joke, with some variation, “Here comes my Pulitzer. I’m feeling it on this one.”

Honestly, though, I’m proud of what I do. There are some stories that I’ve really felt good about. They may not be great, but I’ve gotten some satisfaction out of them, and working at the Delco and the Mercury have given me the opportunity to cover a lot of varied assignments, which have really facilitated my growth as a writer.

In this first year as a paid reporter, I've realized the part of my job that makes me most satisfied is when I feel like I may have helped someone or brightened their day a little.

Obviously, there are some days when we have to call the public’s attention to some of the worst moments of people’s lives, but that’s necessary, too. Everything has its place.

A perfect example of pride in what I do was covering the French Creek fires. Some people apparently looked to me for information and I was able to provide at least a little of that for them.

But an award or two is never unwelcome.

I don’t have any tattoos. Not anywhere. I have a million scars but nothing intentionally etched into my skin.

That said, I’m going to have to step up my game. I might look alright with some ink.

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