So, the Pulitzers were announced on Friday, and the finalists in the editorial cartooning category were two brilliant Daily Kos contributors, Ruben Bolling and Lalo Alcaraz, as well as Native American cartoonist Marty Two Bulls. All three are accomplished and respected artists, but in the end, the prize went to … nobody.
Let me back up a bit and explain how this works. For reasons I still don’t entirely understand, I was invited to serve as a Pulitzer juror in 2018. I’ve seen the sausage being made. A jury, usually comprised of some mix of editors, cartoonists, and academic experts in the field, chooses three finalists out of the hundred or so submissions they receive. These juries work hard and take the responsibility seriously. The year I took part in it, we spent two days in a room reading through every entry and debating them all extensively until we eventually reached a consensus. I have nothing but respect for my fellow jurors from that year.
But it doesn’t end there! The jury’s three final choices then go to the Pulitzer Board, which decides who the actual winner will be. On rare occasions, the Board will disregard the jury’s selections and pick another entrant out of the submissions stack. This year, they didn’t even bother to do that.
They had three incredibly strong finalists to choose from. I would have been proud to sit on a jury that landed any one of them the big prize. But in rejecting all three and declining to nominate an alternate, the Pulitzer Board has effectively announced that in 2020, the year of covid and George Floyd and Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn an election, not a single American political cartoonist produced work that was worthy of recognition. I just don’t believe that’s true.
As always, if you enjoy this work and would like it to continue, please consider helping me keep it sustainable by joining my weekly newsletter, Sparky’s List. Times are rough out there for cartoonists.