I got an email the other day from FOX News asking me if I would talk to Megyn Kelly on her new afternoon show about whether the National Enquirer should be in contention for the most prestigious of newspaper awards, the mighty Pulitzer, for its coverage of the Edwards sex scandal.
My first reaction was, not interested, too sleazy. You don’t win Pulitzers for stories about tawdry stuff like that. So why would I want to put my “good name” on such a crummy discussion? Boy was I wrong.
I did a little research and found out that when Maureen Dowd won the Pulitzer for distinguished commentary in 1999, the official announcement said, “Awarded to Maureen Dowd of The New York Times for her fresh and insightful columns on the impact of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.”
Geez, I forgot all about that.
A tad more research revealed that the New York Times won a Pulitzer just last year for its coverage – ready? – of the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal.
So the argument that sex scandals aren’t Pulitzer worthy isn’t much of an argument. Then why all the hand wringing about how just letting the Enquirer in the same room with “real” newspapers will only tarnish the noble Pulitzer?
Sig Gissler, a Pulitzer bigwig, told ABC News, “We checked the Enquirer Web site, and it apparently calls itself a magazine. Under our rules, magazines (both print and Web versions) and broadcast entities are ineligible.”
You’re kidding, right, Sid? Anyone who’s ever picked up the Enquirer at the supermarket checkout counter knows it’s a newspaper. It’s black and white and read all over, right?
Then there’s Tim McGuire who teaches journalism at Arizona State, who said, “the Pulitzer is never awarded for ‘newsbreaks’ or scoops. Even in the breaking news category, writing, depth, texture and context are all rewarded…. I contend there is no precedent for ‘good scoops’ winning the big prize.”
This guy is teaching kids? You think when the Times won the Pulitzer for its coverage of Spitzer it was for “textured writing”? I don’t think so. What about when the Times won for its scoops about President Bush’s domestic wiretapping program? You think that was for anything but a “good scoop”?
Why don’t they all just say it: They hate the Enquirer because the Enquirer deals in trash – while the big mainstream newspapers that garner so much respect from the Pulitzer folks and journalism professors deal in really important stuff, like what Monica Lewinsky was doing to the president and what those hookers were doing to the former governor of New York.
OK, cheap shot. Still the angst revolves around the fact that the Enquirer is not a member of the club, the one that consists of all the “proper” newspapers in America. You know, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and all the other big, important, mainstream publications that missed the Edwards story!
Here was a man who might have been president, vice president or attorney general, a man who was a phony and a liar, and it took the “trashy” Enquirer to tell America about him. In fact, when Edwards formally backed Obama for president, this is how the New York Times put the endorsement into context:
“John Edwards gave his long-awaited endorsement to Senator Barack Obama, bolstering Obama’s efforts to rally the Democratic Party around his candidacy and offering potential help in his attempts to win over working-call white voters in the general election this autumn.”
Oh yeah, the Times wrote that a full seven months after the Enquirer first started writing about Edwards and his mistress — and didn’t include a syllable about what the Enquirer had been uncovering.
Let’s face it, if the New York Times or the Washington Post broke the Edwards story no one would be asking if the paper should be in the running for the Pulitzer. It’s only a question because it’s the Enquirer.
For the record, I’m not saying the Enquirer deserves to win. But I am glad it’s in contention. The Enquirer humiliated all those newspapers that consider themselves Pulitzer-worthy – the ones that treated the true-blue liberal Edwards as a serious candidate and a serious political force in the campaign while the “trashy” Enquirer knew better.