By: Editorial Staff
O PARAPHRASE AN old ad campaign, New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis got his job through the Pulitzer Prize.
Lewis was a feature writer for the now-defunct Washington Daily News in 1955 when he won his first Pulitzer for stories about the effect the federal government’s reliance on loyalty oaths had on employees. “[Winning] did clearly affect my career because I was then hired by [James] ‘Scotty’ Reston to cover the Supreme Court. That was a direct relationship,” Lewis said.
But the relationship pretty much ended there, Lewis says. He notes that his second Pulitzer for national reporting ? awarded in 1963 for coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court ? resulted from work that bore little resemblance to his 1955 stories.
“It was a different problem, covering the Supreme Court. Certainly it was much different from doing features for an afternoon daily. And when I won in 1963, I was moved to the London bureau and [the Pulitzer] wasn’t really relevant ? I was in a different world, writing as a foreign correspondent,” Lewis said.
In a telephone interview from his Boston office, the writer of the “Abroad At Home/At Home Abroad” op-ed column emphasized the “accidental” element of winning the Pulitzer.
“Obviously, there is a lot of accident in who gets a Pulitzer. There’s an element of accident in what appeals to the selection committee,” he said.
“But even given that,” Lewis added, “taken as a whole I do think [the Pulitzer] has more value than other prizes, as valuable as they may be.” Speaking the day after three Times colleagues won the 1996 Pulitzers, Lewis said the Pulitzers remain “tremendously important because they have the respect of journalists.
“Many people whom I respect won the prize this year,” he said.
In addition to the Times winners and New York Daily News columnist E.R. Shipp, Lewis said he was most moved by the award to Christian Science Monitor reporter David Rohde, who spent nine days in a Bosnian jail cell after discovering and writing about a site that is believed to contain the mass grave of Muslims massacred by Serbs.
“I was very much involved because I worried for his life,” Lewis said.
In his own case, Lewis said, he believes the Pulitzer rewarded what was, to then, his best work.
“In the first case . . . yes, I think it was the best thing I had done at the Washington Daily News. In 1963, well, it was certainly a jam-packed year with the reapportionment cases and I don’t recall what else,” Lewis said, referring to the Supreme Court’s landmark one man/one vote decision.
“Of course,” Lewis added with a laugh, “I never won a [Pulitzer] prize as a columnist and I suppose one shouldn’t be greedy, but . . . “
?(“Of course, I never won a [Putlizer] prize as a columnist and I suppose on e should’s be greedy, but…”) [Caption]
?(-Anthony Lewis) [Photo]