TUESDAY’S LETTERS: Honoring Photojournalists Better, Telling McCullough He’d Won a Pulitzer

By: E&P Staff

In today’s letters, a photo editor says that awards tend to recognize news organizations rather than individual photographers, and an editor relates his experience telling David McCullough that he had won a Pulitzer.


Honor Those With The Cameras on the Front Lines

I have been a news photographer going on 30 years now. For the past 23 years I have covered events in Israel-Palestine for UPI, Reuters and currently epa (European Pressphoto Agency). I’ve won awards over the years and certainly appreciate both the professional honor bestowed by your peers and a cetain amount of prestige that congratulates your efforts and abilities.

However, over the past, oh, say 10 years, (without searching the web too intensely, I’ve noticed a trend to honor the employer much more than the individual photographer.

The Pulitzers have just been announced and, once again, to me at least, the photographic awards are not what they should be. They give two awards — one, awarded for Feature Photography went to Todd Heisler of The Rocky Mountain News, and he certainly deserves it. Wonderful pictures, engaging, top-class, thoughtful, powerful, etc. … he obviously put his heart and soul into this project and came away with incredible photos — nicely edited — and deserves alll kudos and the Pulitzer.

However, the Breaking News Photography award, presented to the Staff of the Dallas Morning News is another matter. Not that the photographs are not good, inspiring, strong, etc. etc. They are. But why does the Pulitzer committee of judges see it necessary to award the prize year-in and year-out (it seems) to a paper’s staff, or for a collective story submitted by 10 – 20 photographers working for an agency?

Is this the SPIRIT that Joseph Pulitzer intended his awards be presented — as compliations or “Best Ofs,” instead for for outstanding endeavor by A photographer in the pursuit of photojournalism?

The Pulitzer states the following on the entry for the two photographic categories:

13. For a distinguished example of breaking news photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs, a sequence or an album.

14. For a distinguished example of feature photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs, a sequence or an album.

Maybe it’s time for the Pulitzer judges to redefine the criteria and limit the photo awards to a single, outstanding and “distinguished” photographer who produces work worthy of this distinguished award. There are many concerend photographers, like Todd Heisler, out there working who have the body of work and the integrity and photojournalism dedication to win this most prestigeous of photo awards. To award Pulitzer’s to a staff of 20 photographer who each contribute one picture to an overall story is, to me at least, not in keeping with the spirit of the award. They could do better.

I trust I am not alone in the PJ-world to have noticed this trend over the past decade.

Jim Hollander
Regional Photo Manager, Israel and Palestinian Authority
epa — European Pressphoto Agency


Where Will You Be When You Find Out?

Liked your E&P piece [on where people were when they found out they had won a Pulitzer Prize].

One of the most memorable calls I made as a reporter was to David McCullough when he won a Pulitzer for Truman. Although I hadn’t intended to be, I was the first to tell him. He was gracious and grateful, but he couldn’t think of anything to say. He promised me an interview if I would call him back 10 minutes later, and he kept his promise.

Beats most calls a reporter has to make in his career.

Jon Marcus
Boston Magazine
Boston, MA

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