In Praise of Jeffrey Gettleman’s Pulitzer

Pulitzer awarded Gettleman $10,000 for "his vivid reports, often at personal peril, on famine and conflict in East Africa."

Another excuse to use this pin-up image of Jeffrey Gettleman.

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. As a parting shot we had to link to this topless pin-up picture of The Gettleman.

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