Monday, April 20, 2009

Sig Gissler f*cks us out of a Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism were announced today. You may have noticed that Tabloid Baby was not among the winners.

And for good reason.

The Pulitzers' gatekeeper wouldn’t let us in.

The Pulitzer Prize board had announced on December 8, 2008 that it had expanded its field to include submissions from Internet news organizations like ours:

New York, Dec. 8, 2008 – The Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, which honor the work of American newspapers appearing in print, have been expanded to include many text-based newspapers and news organizations that publish only on the Internet, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced today.

The Board also has decided to allow entries made up entirely of online content to be submitted in all 14 Pulitzer journalism categories…

So in January 2009, the nomination of TabloidBaby.com, an internationally-known, followed and copied Internet news organization of ten years standing, was tendered to the committee that gives away the Prize named after one of the legendary names in Tabloid Journalism.

Only to be stopped at the door by the board's administrator, a man named Sig Gissler.

Who is this Sig Gissler? Who is he to decide what the committee should consider? After all, it was his name and phone number that was included on the press release announcing the inclusion of Internet journalists. Judging by the list of 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners released today-- a day the New York Times leads with a waterboarding story lifted from Internet bloggers, while new newspaper closures are announced) and the experience this site received at his hands, it appears that the apparent septuagenarian Sig Gissler is an old white shirt-and-tie print journo from days gone by, waging a last-stand defense of the newspaper industry as it circles the bowl.

The announcement about the Pulitzer committee considering Internet organizations? That was just a publicity and credibility ploy. The Pulitzers were trying to look cool and "with it," like back in Sid's middle-age, when an old square would put on a Beatles wig and shout "Yeah, yeah, yeah!"


Following the December 8th announcment, Tabloid Baby's entries and entry material were mailed to the Pulitzer committee in January. This site's editor Burt Kearns and correspondent Elli Wohlgelernter were nominated for 2009 Pulitzer Prizes for their "exclusive online coverage and editorials on U.S. businessmen's involvement in the fall of professional baseball in Israel” in two categories: "a distinguished example of investigative reporting by an individual or team, presented as a single article or series, in print or online or both"; and "a distinguished example of reporting on international affairs, in print or online or both."

In February 18, the Tabloid Baby office received an email from Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler.

“When we saw the email marked ‘Pulitzer entry,’ we were expecting congratulations,” says contributor and media liason Sam Peters. “Instead, we were sucker-punched.”

The email read:

Dear Mr. Kearns:

Thank you for your interest in the Pulitzer Prizes. We would like to accept your entry but it does not fit within our rules.

Submitted online material must have appeared on a Web site "primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories." In our guidelines, we urge entrants to ask themselves if they "genuinely fit the criteria" and we specify that an entry's cover letter should provide "ample evidence" of an online-only news organization's "primary devotion to original news reporting." We do not find the requirements to have been met.

Further, the entry is improperly prepared. It should be in a binder with each exhibit clearly numbered.

I am sorry to disappoint you. Although entry fees are non-refundable, we will make an exception in your case because this is a transitional period for the Pulitzers. In due course, we will return your check.


Sig Gissler, administrator
Pulitzer Prizes

To quote Mr. Peters, "WTF?"

Confident that our website had met all criteria as described on the entry form as "an eligible news organization that publishes--in print or online--at least weekly; that is primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories; and that adheres to the highest journalistic principles," we had but one question for the fussy Sig Gissler:

"Was the decision to reject our entry that of the Pulitzer Board or your own?

His reply?

Dear Mr. Kearns,

Eligibility decisions are made by the administrator, implementing rules established by the Pulitzer Board.

Sig Gissler


So again, who is this Sig Gissler?

According to the Pulitzer and Columbia websites, Sig Gissler is a midwestern print journo from an era past who retired from active journalism in 1993 and continues to preach the old values behind the ivy-covered walls of Columbia University's School of Journalism:

"Sig Gissler has been administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes since 2002. A special faculty member at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, Gissler is founder of 'Let's Do It Better,' the school's national Workshops on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity. He is the former editor of the Milwaukee Journal. During his 25 years with the paper, he served as reporter, editorial page editor and associate editor before becoming editor in 1985. Gissler left the paper in 1993 to become a senior fellow at the Freedom Forum's Media Studies Center, exploring media coverage of race... In 1998, Gissler was voted teacher of the year at the journalism school..."

We'd say old Sig Gissler and his Pulitzer cronies are simply elitist, liberal j-school snobs who turn up their noses at a news organization that contains the word "tabloid"-- until we take another look and see that every winner of this year's journalism prizes is an oldstream print newspaper outfit (No Nikki Finke, no Past Deadline, no Luke Ford) and then we realize that Sig Gissler's just a square and that the significance of the Pulitzer Prizes is going the way of the newspaper.

And he still hasn't sent back the check.

(Not even worthy of Pulitzer consideration? Head to our Baseball in Israel archive site to see all our US-Israel baseball coverage and judge for yourself.)

(Top photo of Sig Gissler by Irina Slutsky)

UPDATE! "Soylent Green deathbed handjob for terminally-ill newspaper industry!"


Anonymous said...

The site is looking Great!!
F**K Sig.

Anonymous said...

But you just repost shit you read other places on the internet. Why should Sig Gissler, or anyone, care?

Anonymous said...

Do you think this site is an aggregator or would you say that it's 'mostly original reporting?' I'd consider this blog to be mostly aggregation, which is why you weren't considered for this prize.

A lot of sites that aggregate have this belief that their analysis of a story that appears in the NY Times (or whatever publication) constitutes an original work. It doesn't.

It gets tricky when an aggregator also does original reporting. It appears that your Israel-baseball story is original reporting, but the majority of the site would be considered news aggregation, which would rightly disqualify you from award consideration.

Either way, your claim that this one guy robbed you of a pulitzer is ridiculous, as if you were assured a win. You've overestimated your influence and popularity on the web. You can try to pretend this is some old-jounralism-VS-the-internet thing, but this site was never a real contender for the prize. Maybe try the Webbys?