Start here: All three finalists for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning did excellent work.
And for those who come here often, there's no need for me to disclose my general contempt for awards: I've frequently written how much I dislike them and how little stock I place in them.
But, since I'm about to disrespect the Granddaddy of Them All, let me expand on that.
I am an "award winning journalist."
On accounta it's damned hard not to be.
In fact, one year, New Jersey's press group issued a memo before their annual banquet instructing winners on how to get on and off the stage for their group photos, because there were so many awards that they risked taking up too much time with the process.
In the words of Bob Dylan, "Applause is kind of bullshit."
A couple of my awards were for things that mattered: I did a detailed explanation of the Americans With Disabilities Act when it came out, I tracked down the comparative phone rates for the major long distance carriers despite the fog of bells and whistles and discounts they hid them behind, and I investigated a clause that had been slipped into an unrelated bill that deprived Census workers of their unemployment rights, which story sparked federal legislation to correct it.
And after I left the newsroom and went into educational outreach, I won two international awards.
So I've got plenty of Lucite, baby.
But some of my awards were for lesser work. It was still good work; I don't file stories I don't think are any good.
But it didn't deserve more than a paycheck and maybe a "nice job" from somebody.
Our January 28, 1990, Business Section Cover was a three-story in-depth analysis of sexual harassment in the work place.
Didn't win a damn thing.
Then, in October, 1991, Anita Hill testified, after which sexual harassment was a hot topic and suddenly the Lucite flew like hailstones.
I'm not bitter that the piece didn't win anything, but it opened my eyes to the idea that awards are often pegged to what is timely, to what is on the judge's radar when they sit down and sort through the entries.
So let's talk about the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons, which went to a very well put-together series written by Jake Halpern and illustrated by Michael Sloan and featured twice a month in the Sunday magazine section of the New York Times.
It tracks the experience of a Syrian refugee family in America. Here's the first, introductory piece:
And I'm very happy that the Pulitzers are recognizing graphic journalism, because it matters and we need more of it, which is why just last week I heaped praise on Cincinnati's WCPO for sponsoring Breanna Molloy and Kevin Necessary's ongoing graphic series about an undocumented girl in America. Nor was I alone.
Granted, it came after Halpern and Sloan's piece began in the Times, but I've also praised graphic memoirs and graphic journalism that far preceded either of them, including this 2011 portrait of Joe Sacco and his work, and an appreciation of Sarah Glidden's work later that same year, and, in 2014, an overview of the entire topic of graphic journalism and the need to avoid turning it into boring graphic lectures.
Not to mention the plugs for Cartoon Movement's interactive works, like this portrait of the homeless in pre-Olympic/World Cup Brazil, or Victor Ndula's reporting from a camp for Sudanese refugees.
It's not a matter of which is better than what, but, rather, one of "Where the hell have you been?" because this type of reporting has been going on for a very long time and I would contend that it is prominent and important enough to deserve its own category.
Which leads to my main complaint:
Those of us who instruct children in the principles of journalism are careful to distinguish between news reporting and editorial writing.
It is not a distinction I would expect to have to explain to the Pulitzer committee, which hands out seven awards for different types of reporting, as well as separate awards for feature writing, commentary, criticism and editorial writing.
I like what Halpern and Sloan have done, and we can quarrel over whether it's the best example of graphic journalism in 2017, but then again, we don't know if any other examples of the format were even nominated.
If they were, they were nominated in the wrong category.
Look, much as I admire Van Gogh's "Starry Night," I do not consider it a great portrait, nor do I think "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a great novel.
And I don't think either work is diminished by that analysis.
An editorial cartoon is not reportage, nor is it illustration.
It is an expression of opinion with a call for action, implied or overt.
Mark Fiore -- who won the 2010 Pulitzer in this category -- was one of the runners-up this year. He doesn't allow his animations to be embedded on other sites, but you can see his samples here. They are certainly editorial cartoons.
And here are three examples of runner-up Mike Thompson's work, traditional static cartoons that clearly express strong opinions. (You can see more of his entries here.)
Bottom Line: The Pulitzer Committee needs to establish a new category for Graphic Journalism, because it's clearly, obviously not the same thing as Editorial Cartooning.
We can argue all night over who did a better job than who else, but I'm not going to sit here and argue over the difference between fact and opinion.
Awards are, to echo Dylan, bullshit enough without handing them out in categories you don't understand.
Now here's a foxtrot I hope you will all enjoy:
(The best award is just lettinmebe mice elf)