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Some Post Pulitzer winners gone, but not forgotten

By Andy Alexander

Winning four Pulitzer Prizes in a single year is an enviable feat for any newspaper, and my Sunday column noted the pride felt by The Post’s newsroom when the annual awards were announced last week. I also suggested that the Pulitzers might help retain readers who are upset by recent subscription rate increases that have comes on the heels of staff and content reductions.

But in recent days, a handful of readers have said that The Post’s haul of Pulitzers is less satisfying to them because some of the winners no longer work for the paper, while others are not on its full-time staff.

“Normally I would be a local Post reader who supports your suggestion that I have higher regard for the paper when it wins Pulitzer Prizes,” wrote Ellen Herscher of the District. “However, this year the Post Pulitzer winner whose work I hold in highest regard is no longer at the Post. Anthony Shadid is one of the greatest foreign correspondents reporting today, and the Post's failure to keep him from departing to the New York Times only further lowers my satisfaction and respect for your newspaper.”

Shadid won in the International category for reporting about Iraq. In 2004, he also won a Pulitzer for Post stories from Iraq. But Shadid has left The Post and joined The New York Times earlier this year.

Another reader called to note the house advertisement in last Tuesday’s Style section that included the four winners as well as former veteran Post reporter and foreign editor David Hoffman. He won this year’s Pulitzer in the General Nonfiction category for his book “The Dead Hand, The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy.” Hoffman left the paper last year in the latest cost-cutting buyout intended to reduce staff size. Although the ad lists him as a “contributing editor,” he no longer works in the newsroom.

Gene Weingarten won in the Feature Writing category for his gripping March 2009 Post story about parents who killed their children after accidentally leaving them in cars. Weingarten had won his first Pulitzer in the same category several years earlier. But in June of last year, he took a Post buyout and is no longer a full-time staffer. He was hired back on contract to write columns and online chats.

Kathleen Parker, who won in the Commentary category, is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her column regularly appears on the opinion pages of The Post, which is considered the anchor newspaper among her 434 clients. But she does not have an office at The Post, and when she joined the other winners in addressing the newsroom shortly after the awards were announced, it was the first time many staffers had seen her in person.

Sarah Kaufman, who won a Pulitzer this year for her dance criticism, is the lone winner who is full-time on The Post’s staff.

Does the current employment status of the other winners diminish the significance of the awards for The Post, or for the winners? I don’t think so. To some extent, the departures of Shadid and Hoffman and the changed employment status of Weingarten may be seen by some readers as examples of last year’s upheaval at The Post. There were more buyouts, a new newsroom structure, reductions in content and the most extensive newspaper redesign in more than a decade. But most readers live in the moment and appreciate quality when they consume it.

By Andy Alexander  | April 20, 2010; 4:04 PM ET
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Next: Post moves to protect its politics franchise


People come and go, the Post keeps going on and on. Don't chart a course by passing ships, rely on the stars fixed in the sky. High lights don't go out. It could go higher faster from here. We'll see.

Posted by: tossnokia | April 21, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

"Does the current employment status of the other winners diminish the significance of the awards for The Post, or for the winners? I don’t think so. To some extent, the departures of Shadid and Hoffman and the changed employment status of Weingarten may be seen by some readers as examples of last year’s upheaval at The Post."

Hoffman's and Weingarten's statuses, sure. But Shadid, the exact breed of reporter so woefully missing in today's journalism, left for your rival. That is unequivocally a loss for the Post. Don't sugarcoat it.

Posted by: matt_sav00 | April 21, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

At least this gives WaPo a list of who to buy-out next. It's like trading all the members of your World Series winning team.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Pulitzer and recognition for writing, I'd like to ask you, Mr. Ombudsman, if the following would be a good
example of what you and the WaPo's staff would like to see in our comments as posters:

"So President Barack Obama inherited a broken nation, with a deplorable record abroad, with a need to rebuild bridges which had been systematically dynamited for eight long years with the arrogance and insolence of Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ms. Rice. President Barack Obama inherited an internal situation bordering on a nightmare, with thrift (mortgage) institutions bankrupt, millions of people unable to repay loans, companies closing, record levels of bankruptcies...
The “Yes, we can” campaign was a campaign of brilliance, a campaign based upon the very best that the United States of America has, which is so often either unnoticed or purposefully ignored by a foreign media that likes to pretend the USA is crude, rude, uncultured, raw, ignorant and “colonial” whereas in fact it is already, and slightly over 200 years old, a sophisticated country with pools of excellence in the fields of education and technology, where public services function, where people are free to say their piece, a country which although criminally misled at times, is nevertheless in general terms well-meaning."

That is a direct quote from a Pravda article written by their staff, their award: "Not Pulverized" rather than the Pulitzer. Is this the kind of elevated
commenting you will demand of your sanitized preapproved posters in the future and on top of that we have to pay some kind of fee to comment?
How free is that? Pravda sounds just like most of you columnists there; maybe you could merge publications and no one would notice.

Posted by: realitybased1 | April 21, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

I like this particular article it gives me an additional input on the information around the world. thanks a lot and keep giving with posting such information.
mobile phone

Posted by: shownmichle | April 23, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Striking that this blog is now so dead that an obvious spam comment can be posted on the current top article (see shownmichie, just above me), and four days later no-one has noticed, and no one else has commented.

I guess everyone has given up.

Posted by: jquiggin | April 27, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

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