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Pulitzer for Criticism: Holland Cotter Gets the Gold UPDATED THRICE

Holland Cotter

Holland Cotter, staff art critic for the NY Times since 1998, has just been named the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism, “for his wide ranging reviews of art, from Manhattan to China, marked by acute observation, luminous writing and dramatic storytelling.”

The specific articles that won him the prize are here, here and here.

The Pulitzer site, in its biographical description, took note of Cotter’s special niche at the paper:

For the Times, he has written widely about “non-western” art and
culture. In the 1990s, he introduced readers to a broad range of Asian
contemporary art as the first wave of new art from China art was
building and breaking. He helped bring contemporary art from India to
the attention of a western audience.

The two finalists in criticism, as described on the Pulitzer site, were:

Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer for her fascinating and convincing architectural critiques that boldly confront important topics, from urban planning issues to the newest skyscraper; and Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe for his fresh, accessible and energetic reviews on the New England art scene, creating for readers a sense of discovery even as he provides discerning analysis.

In other words, art and architecture (not theater, music, film, food or fashion) ruled the day. That’s even more noteworthy in light of the fact that the jury in this category has no visual arts-oriented members. What’s more, art still isn’t even mentioned in the Pulitzer’s official description (scroll to last page) of its criticism category:

Q. What belongs in the Criticism category?
A. Critical work on such subjects as books, theater, television, movies, dance and architecture.

Despite the Pulitzer’s stated interest in recognizing blogs and bloggers this year for the first time, the sole web-only journalist to have received recognition appears to have been Matt Wuerker of Politico, who was a finalist for editorial cartooning. (Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune won the gold in that category.)

ArtsJournal this year was excluded from eligible web-only sites, because it is “largely devoted to aggregating news produced by other entities and to commentary and reviews in various forms,” in the words of Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers. This despite the fact that AJ’s righthand column consists solely of original content (including original reporting). And “commentary and reviews” are what the categories of explanatory reporting, criticism and commentary are all about (or so I thought).

No matter. Change is coming. You don’t need a weatherman (or a medal) to see which way the wind blows.

UPDATE: There is nothing “in error” about the last two paragraphs of this post, as another AJ blogger (to whom I shall not link), has alleged (after having barraged me with six e-mails in two days, demanding a correction).

My Feb. 12 letter from Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers (which I forwarded to the blogger after his first e-mail), clearly and explicitly stated that my submission would not be considered for the prize because ArtsJournal did not, in their judgment, meet the requirement that entries of online journalism come from websites “primarily dedicated
to original news reporting.”

I believe that the Pulitzers’ stated opinion regarding AJ’s website was in error, but that’s not my call. At least Gissler tried to make it up to me:

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. [They did, along with my materials.]

Maybe my detractor should retract his “correction” and ask for his money back. Anyway, the bottom line is: We’re a couple of losers. (I’ll say it, before someone else does!)

SECOND UPDATE: After I posted the above update, my blogging detractor sent me a copy of an e-mail that he indicated was addressed to him by Gissler on Feb. 18 (six days after I received my disqualification). It states that “upon reconsideration, …after finding a sufficient degree of original reporting amid the interviews, reviews and commentary,” the Pulitzer administration had decided to accept his entry. Why this difference in treatment? (My submission consisted exclusively of original reporting and commentary, on a story that I broke.) I have e-mailed Gissler to seek clarification.

In any event, I’ll be gratified to learn that they now deem ArtsJournal worthy of Pulitzer consideration. (Better luck next year.)

THIRD UPDATE: Sig has responded. It seems that my blogging detractor was smart enough to make Gissler understand that his blog is a separate website (with original content), within a larger website, ArtsJournal (which aggregates news). The blog’s individual website was eligible; the umbrella site (whose eligibility I had defended in my entry) was not. Go figure.

Technicalities aside, my entry was always a longshot, even if I had gotten past the starting gate. I just thought it would be fun to try. Some fun!

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