By: Joe Strupp
If the Los Angeles Times wins the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, it appears that it will not be won by someone the paper submitted for consideration. Although the paper nominated three writers for the honor, the most allowed by Pulitzer rules, the apparent list of finalists, E&P has learned, includes two Times scribes who nominated themselves.
Under Pulitzer restrictions, only three entries can be submitted by any news outlet for consideration in each of the 14 journalism categories, with any other nominees submitted by someone else. Sources at the Times said that the paper had nominated music critic Ann Powers, architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, and media writer Tim Rutten.
But according to other insiders, art critic Christopher Knight and classical music critic Mark Swed – Times staffers who submitted themselves as nominees – are among the finalists chosen last week. The third finalist is believed to be food writer Jonathan Gold of LA
Last week, E&P revealed (based on numerous sources) the reputed finalists in 10 categories for the Pulitzers, but criticism was not among them.
“I nominated myself, it is nothing nefarious,” says Knight, 56, who was a finalist in 1991 and 2001 and has worked at the Times for 17 years. “I think this is a very competitive category here and they are limited to three people and they make their choices.”
Knight, who said he paid the $75 nomination fee himself and submitted 10 articles, praised all of the paper’s critics, noting “it is a deep bench and they are all terrific.” Asked if he believed the Times would pay for him to attend the Pulitzer awards lunch in New York were he to win, Knight said “I think they would be real nice about that.”
Swed, who has never been a finalist, confirmed that he had nominated himself, adding “it is something that the paper is fine with.” An 11-year Times writer, Swed, 59, said the Pulitzer nomination process “is completely irrelevant” to his daily concerns. “I write about music, that is what matters,” he said. “They let me do my thing and I am very happy about that. I take all of this with a grain of salt.”
Times Feature Editor John Montorio did not return calls seeking comment about the paper’s submissions. Editor James O’Shea declined comment Tuesday.
After the finalists were chosen last week, a rumor quickly spread through the Times newsroom that all three finalists had been Times writers, and that they were the three the paper had submitted. One source said O’Shea told a group of editors during a meeting on Thursday that the finalists were from Los Angeles. This turned out to be true, although the third finalist is said to be from another paper.
But later on, word came out that the finalists actually included Swed and Knight.
Of course, The Pulitzer Board, which meets next month to choose the winners, could break-up the criticism finalists, or any other finalist group, when it determines who receives the final prizes.
Related E&P story: Here We Go Again — Pulitzer Finalists Leaked!