The Pulitzer prizes were announced yesterday and my first reaction was in regards to the dearth of awards for what most consider the best U.S. dailies, the NY Times (one prize) and the Washington Post (zero). But then I figured that these awards are bestowed not for general excellence, which these papers clearly produce, but for specific pieces, features, stories, articles, and investigations. And then I wondered whether this is a shortcoming of the Pulitzer prize system of its board -- that the awards do not accurately reflect the best journalistic outlets, merely the best individual pieces (and journalists). So, for instance, one might pick up Willamette Week (investigative prize) or the Star-Ledger (Breaking News) and expect masterful, thorough writing, reporting, and an excellent newspaper overall. Or envision top-notch coverage of geopolitics and international affairs and grab a Newsday (International Reporting). One would be vastly disappointed on all counts.

Does this suggest that the awards process is faulty or the list of prizes is less than comprehensive? Perhaps. But surely Joe Morgenstern of WSJ is a less insightful, referential, and just generally less enjoyable critic than both A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis of the Times, not to mention New Yorker Anthony Lane.

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