In Praise of Jeffrey Gettleman’s Pulitzer


We couldn’t let the week pass without celebrating one of its more significant events: Jeffrey Gettleman, East Africa correspondent for The New York Times (yes, only in Africa can journalists cover territories so vast) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize–valued at $10,000–for “his vivid reports, often at personal peril, on famine and conflict in East Africa.” Floppy of hair, steely of jaw, noble of brow and almost invariably open of shirt, The Gettleman seems to have mustered his Pulitzer mainly by charming the Jury into submission with his carefully cultivated aura of old-world journalistic romance. The macho Gettleman thrusts himself into the torrid zone and must be decorated with all kinds of gongs and baubles. What did we expect? This is the Pulitzers after all. If you’re wondering who you should blame for all this: the “Jury” that recommended our man Gettleman to the Pulitzer Board consisted of Gillian Tett (U.S. managing editor, Financial Times, chair; and also a PhD in Anthropology it appears), Susan Glasser (editor in chief, Foreign Policy, Washington, DC), Mary Jordan (editor, Washington Post Live), Robert Reid (Middle East editor, Associated Press) and Paul Salopek (former correspondent, Chicago Tribune).

But it was news to us that East Africa is, as described in the citation, “a neglected but increasingly strategic part of the world.” Strategic in what sense? Yes, the “War on Terror”, pirates, drone strikes and so on, but we might want to ask that of the jury camped out at Columbia’s journalism school to clarify one point: strategic for whom exactly? And “neglected”? Every major NGO and a legion of foreign correspondents (what’s left of that profession) have set up shop in Nairobi, so much so that it’s created a parallel world of expatriates.

Back to Gettleman: the man has chutzpah. Not for him the niceties of the nomination process observed by lesser reporters than he. No, the only man fit to nominate The Gettleman was The Gettleman himself. In its story on the prize, The Times gave Gettleman a backhanded compliment (they mentioned him about 10 paragraphs down): ‘Mr. Gettleman nominated himself for the award, and he beat out other Times reporters nominated for their coverage of the Japanese tsunami. While “some reporters might have felt his editors knew best” about the nomination, said Joseph Kahn, The Times’s foreign editor, ‘Jeffrey put himself forward for the Pulitzers—and for that, Jeffrey, bless your heart.’

Anyway, if you want you can check out our general feeling on The Gettleman’s reporting: our tweets when we got wind of his award or just click through for our archive. Otherwise, join us as we celebrate Gettleman’s Pulitzer with snapshots of him taken around the continent. We did not include this topless pin-up picture of The Gettleman. The first two are from his adventures in Somalia (which resulted in a classic about drinking camel’s milk) and then in the DRC and Ethiopia.

* Co-written with Elliot Ross.

Comments

comments

Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

9 Comments
  1. Strategic in what sense? Yes, the “War on Terror”, pirates, drone strikes and so on, but we might want to ask the of “objectivity” jury camped out at Columbia’s journalism school to clarify one point: strategic for whom exactly? And “neglected”? Every major NGO and a legion of foreign correspondents (what’s left of that profession) have set up shop in Nairobi, so much so that it’s created a parallel world of expatriates.

    Wow. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  2. My question to you all: if he is such a douche, how come the pulitzer committee which claims to be objective overseers of global writing failed to see this? Are they a bunch of douches also? Does reporting and writing in Africa mean so little to the Pulitzer Committee? Is Africa the douche? Are other African reporters such douches that THIS douche shall rule them all? I am really confused … am I the douche?

  3. I choked on my breakfast when I heard abut The Gettleman’s Pulitzer, so thanks for the laughs. This is the same guy who shortly after arriving in Nairobi produced a string of crudely pro-US (and pro-Ethiopian) articles on the Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu. A year or so later he wrote (12/31/07) that Kenya’s 2007 election violence was “tribal bloodletting” stemming from “an atavistic vein of tribal tension that always lay beneath the surface in Kenya.”

  4. Many thanks for heaping so much richly deserved praise on good old Gettleman, who has done so much to maintain the fine tradition of peddling the cheapest and most damaging clichés about “Africa”. Of course he gets a Pullitzer and unchallenged airtime on CNN and…

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