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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 04/22/2009

Steve Breen Dedicates Pulitzer to Out-of-Work Colleagues

By Michael Cavna

STEVE BREEN is thankful for the second Pulitzer of his career. He is humbly grateful that the jurors deemed his winning portfolio the best. But had he been doing the choosing, he wouldn't have necessarily selected himself for the prize.

"Part of me was hoping it was going to go to Ed Stein or someone like that who was laid off this year," said Breen, referring to the former Rocky Mountain News political cartoonist whose paper was shuttered. "That would have been fantastic. It's been such a hard year for editorial cartooning."

So much so that Breen wants to dedicate his prize, awarded Monday, to them. "I'd like to dedicate the Pulitzer to the guys who have lost their jobs" recently, the cartoonist tells Comic Riffs. "There've been so many."

Breen is political cartoonist at the recently sold San Diego Union-Tribune, but even with a pair of Pulitzers and numerous other national-prize hardware on his mantle, he knows he's not safe from a layoff: "Even my future is in doubt with the sale of the paper. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm not naive enough to think my job is secure."

Breen, who turns 39 Sunday, has also won a National Headliners Award and an Overseas Press Club award this year, the Union-Tribune said.

STEVE BREEN Enlarge Comic

So what was the cartoonist's reaction to the news? "I knew I had a good portfolio, but honestly I was thinking it was going to be someone else. ..." Breen tells us. "But I was glad to be spared the agony of 'the leak,' when you spend six weeks wondering, 'Maybe it's me,' and then it's such a letdown. With both wins, I've been spared that.

Then there was the matter of how Breen got the news. He was vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai with his wife and four children, hustling for the airport, when he got the news at 9 a.m. Hawaiian time. "I was trying to get out of the hotel room and my editor, Bob Kittle, called my cell and said: 'Hello, Mr. Breen, you've just won your second Pulitzer.' "

This week, the Detroit Free Press's MIKE THOMPSON -- who is Breen's partner in producing the United Media comic strip "Grand Avenue" -- was a Pulitzer finalist for the third time in five years. The other finalist was Politico's MATT WUERKER.

Thompson, whose newspaper also won a Pulitzer for local reporting, tells Comic Riffs: "I'm thrilled for Steve Breen. His work is outstanding. Matt Wuerker's work is obviously very deserving as well.

"As for me, I'm just happy that I now share the same record in the big game as my favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings: 0-3!"

And Wuerker, a Pulitzer finalist for the first time, tells 'Riffs, "I'm stunned and thrilled."

"It's truly a cartoonist's dream to even be in the neighborhood of a Pulitzer," he says. "There are so many very fine hard-working cartoonists out there doing fabulous work, it's a great honor to get singled out like this."


Given the current climate for political cartoonists, Wuerker added: "I'm very grateful to Politico for the brilliant platform they've offered me and the complete editorial freedom and support they've always given me here. I also feel very lucky to be working for editors that completely get how a political cartoonist and political illustrations enhance a paper and a Web site. If only all the other cartoonists out there were so lucky."

Lastly, regarding "Grand Avenue": Breen could not think of another case in which a single comic strip was being produced by two Pulitzer finalists in a single year.

" 'Grand Avenue' is packed with Pulitzer power -- between Mike and I," Breen quips. "That's how United should market it!"

STEVE BREEN discusses his work with Comic Riffs (at last year's San Diego Comic-Con):

By Michael Cavna  | April 22, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Pulitzer; Steve Breen; Mike Thompson; Matt Wuerker; Grand Avenue  
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