Today's the biggest day on newspaperland's calendar. No, not when Johnny Apple submits his novella-length list of itemized deductions to the IRS but rather when Columbia University announces the Pulitzer Prizes, promptly at 3 o'clock this afternoon. To mark the occasion, Editor & Publisher asked a bunch of former prizewinners where they were when they heard the news. Some of our favorite reporters are included in the roundup — Maureen, the News's Bill Sherman, who apparently used to cover boring-but-worthy things like Medicare fraud before becoming the paper's Jared Paul Stern reporter — but, frankly, their stories are all fairly boring. (It's a Tolstoyan thing, we imagine: Happy reporters are all alike; every unhappy reporter is unhappy in his own way.) We were stopped, however, by this intriguing story from top Timesman Bill Keller, who won in 1989 for international reporting:
I was in Cuba, covering Mikhail Gorbachev's summit with Fidel Castro. I called the foreign desk to check in after our plane reached Havana, and learned that editors had been quaffing champagne in my honor. This was before the Internet era of no surprises, so I'd been completely oblivious to the fact that it was the day the Pulitzers were announced.
I went out to dinner that night with another reporter and didn't tell him my news. I think he's always taken my silence for supreme modesty, but, honestly, I was just too flustered to know how to bring it up.
And that little flustered, modest, angsty foreign correspondent grew up to be the paper's first emo executive editor. Big surprise.