Jack Ohman editorial cartoons and blog

And the Pulitzer Prize for maklng silly little drawings goes to...

Published: Friday, Apr. 12, 2013 - 5:53 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Apr. 12, 2013 - 6:15 pm

This is the weekend that quite a number of political cartoonists in the United States sit squirming in their chairs before Monday's announcement of the Pulitzer Prize.

It is rather unusual to be in a profession where, every year, you may have some sort of reasonable expectation that you may win the Pulitzer Prize. I don't know how it is in other categories, like poetry or music, let alone explanatory journalism or spot news photography, but there is a pretty small number of entries in the editorial cartooning category. Like, probably a hundred or less.

Obviously, there is a lot of handicapping going on in this particular segment of journalism. I was a finalist last year (that means they got it down to three people before picking the winner), so I am probably a bit squirmier than I would be otherwise.

I know people who have been Pulitzer finalists three or four times and haven't won. I know one guy who has won only the Pulitzer Prize and no other awards. 

In the other categories, I suspect it's probably a thunderclap moment. Say you're a nominee (anyone can be a nominee - no biggie, it's just you and $75 and a filled-out form), and there are 1,675 other competitors in investigative reporting. You're sitting there at your filthy desk at The Canton (OH) Repository (yeah, that is a real newspaper), you turned in your big series on corruption in the county sheriff's office, and the odds that you're going to win the Pulitzer, or even think you're going to win the Pulitzer, are pretty slim.

On Monday morning, the wire reports that you, Mr. Canton Repository, have just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. You're some schmo from a midwestern state university J School with 3.13 GPA, and 16 years later, you get to tell your mom that you won the Pulitzer Prize.

And you didn't have to do it in the biography category. Those people are sharp. Like professors at Harvard, been working on their manuscript since 1998, and see the word "ibid" in their sleep.

Once you have won the Pulitzer, the standard joke is that, well, now you know how your obituary is going to read. True. Particularly if you're Mr. Canton Repository.

"CANTON, OH (AP)--Phil Space, a longtime Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Canton Repository who otherwise was pretty much utterly unremarkable, died today at a local reporter's watering hole. He was 61 and hit his head after tripping on a bar stool."

Now, I'm just talking about a person who has been cited individually. There is a whole universe of people who were on teams of journalists at newspapers who won Pulitzers. This, quite honestly, is all well and good, but in order for it to really mean something, your name has to be on the Pulitzer certificate, you're kind of like a guy with a Ph.D in anthropology who refers to himself around others as "doctor."

I know one man who was part of a very, very large reporting team (about 20 reporters and photographers) that won the Pulitzer, and he just was completely convinced that he was the only dude who had ever won a Pulitzer not only on that team, but ever, and introduced himself as such.

He wasn't really well-liked, and people wished he might trip over a bar stool. Not fatally, of course. 

I have a number of very close friends who have won Pulitzers, maybe a dozen or so. They almost all wear it very lightly. They're almost a little self-conscious about it. With the exception of two people I know who ram it down your throat, gleefully, the vast majority of them are all like, yeah, I had a friend on the jury, or yeah, it's a lottery, or yeah, it's your turn, or yeah, it was useful because I hit a tuition payment.

Sure.

I knew a cartoonist who had won three Pulitzers. One was leaning on his floor in a frame because he hadn't quite gotten around to hanging it yet. I thought that was cool.

Still another cartoonist in our world who has a reputation as, shall we say, a self-promoter, once walked into a large banquet of a completely different organization, like the American Association of National Meeting Groups or something, grabbed a microphone, stood up, and said to the group, "My name is Marc Narcissist (not his real name, but certainly a diagnosis ) and I have won two Pulitzer Prizes, and I want to know know if you'd like me to give a speech here now." 

Stunned silence. Except from the cartoonists who lovingly retell the anecdote.

Another guy who had won it actually said to a syndicate president I knew that he wanted something done with his contract because "I am the Pulitzer winner," as in Nixon's "I am the president."

Snort.

I suspect he never knew that anecdote --"Can you (Anglo-Saxon rejoinder) believe that Blank actually said that? Please"--had made its way around every venue with more than two cartoonists in the United States

I am sure just writing this will jinx me, but whatever. It's a stress-reliever. And, besides, I know how these things go down.

Like a guy tripping on a bar stool.  

Read more articles by Jack Ohman



Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ohman

Jack Ohman Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award, the national SPJ Award, the National Headliner Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. He has written and illustrated 10 books, many of them about fly fishing. Jack has three grown children.

Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com.

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