Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, announces the winners. Actually, and disappointingly, he merely announces the winners are being announced. The World window, behind him, is the highlight of the experience.
If you pay attention to such things, you come to learn that the announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes each year follows an oddly quaint ritual. The prizewinners are announced in April, they are announced at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and they are announced at Columbia University. Oddly, they are not announced first on the Pulitzer Prizes website; they are not announced by a televised ceremony; they don't move over the AP wire at precisely the appointed time. Rather, they are announced at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism's ceremonial World Room, which contains the stained-glass window from Joseph Pulitzer's old New York World, and one would imagine there is some sort of puff of white smoke, or herald trumpets, or something portentous, to mark the news. This year, we headed up to Columbia to find out.
The big question, really, is whether we'll make it to Columbia in time. Morningside Heights, we always forget, is far away. And we really always forget just how many stops there are on the 1. We've been told the event will be in Low Library. Will we make it on time?
We will. However, we soon learn — from the lack of any other people, certainly not from the entirely unhelpful undergrads in the information office — that the announcement is fact not at Low and must be in the Journalism building. "The what prizes?" the cute blond kid asks. Ah, youth.
We make it to Journalism in time. As we rush upstairs we see a few people stuck outside the door to the World Room. We're afraid it's so packed there's no room left inside.
We are mistaken. In fact, the room is nearly empty. There's the indefatigable Joe Strupp, from Editor & Publisher, a few people we assume are wire reporters, and a few people milling about officiously who must work for the Prizes or the j-school.
There is also coffee and a big plate of cookies. During Passover. So much for the Jews controlling media.
As 3 o'clock approaches, the room gets every so vaguely more crowded. Judging by the sartorial and tonsorial choices of the overwhelming majority of the attendees — either ill-fitting blazers and crazy gray hair or snug-fitting blazers and gelled short hair — it seems nearly everyone present is a j-school prof in for the curiosity or a j-school student in for an assignment. The room remains more empty than not.
Then the moment arrives. There is no countdown clock. There is no Powerpoint presentation. No one comes running in with a hot-of-the-presses announcement. Rather, Gissler looks around, says, "Well, I think it's three now," and approaches the podium. Does he dramatically read the winners? No. He gives a brief preamble — We've been doing this for 90 years, we'll keep doing it — and an aide starts handing out press packets. After a few minutes, students are asked to wait so "working press" can get the announcement first, to make sure they won't run out.
The few reporters on deadline — good ol' Strupp, the presumed wire guys, yours truly — read through the announcement packets and call into the office. That's it. Gissler has said he'll take questions at 3:20. (And turned away one dude who tried to ask a question early. The nerve.)
He does. Almost no one no one hung around to ask anything (though a nonspecific camera — CSPAN2? Columbia TV? Current? — remains rolling). This makes sense: The press packet is pretty self explanatory. So we leave.
And, on the way out, realize
Joe Pulitzer is showing us his ass. About right. [OK, it seems that's acutally Thomas Jefferson — apparently Pulitzer wasn't so much for the wigs and britches. We're so out of contention for a prize now.]