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Cheer and loathing as Pulitzer Prize goes to New York Times’s controversial 1619 Project

Cheer and loathing as Pulitzer Prize goes to New York Times’s controversial 1619 Project
Doubling down on wokeness, the Pulitzer Center gave a prestigious prize to a controversial project reframing US history as racist, while its head proclaimed the special role of journalists as guardians of truth and democracy.

The Pulitzer Prize for commentary was given on Monday to Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times, for her flagship essay in the paper’s ‘1619 Project’ asserting that only African-American struggle gives meaning to the founding ideals of the US.

“Overwhelmed with pride and joy,” Jake Silverstein, editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine, tweeted in response.

Both the project and Hannah-Jones’s essay anchoring it have been questioned for their agenda and commitment to historical accuracy – or lack thereof.

Silverstain himself famously stood by the “main point” Hannah-Jones had made when issuing an update to her essay in March this year, grudgingly correcting her claim that protecting slavery was “one primary reason the colonists fought the American Revolution” to make clear she was referring to “some” colonists and not all of them.

The news incensed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who fired off a lengthy Twitter tirade denouncing the 1619 Project as “explicitly not journalism [but] propaganda.” It is based on false premises and by its own admission seeks to rewrite US history, Cruz argued.

“The NYT & Pulitzer are now both expressly partisan, consumed with Trump-hatred, history ‘reframing,’ race-baiting, dishonest propagandists,” lamented the senator. “It’s truly sad. Now, more than ever, we need real journalists. And they’re not even pretending anymore.”

Others, like Federalist editor Mollie Hemingway, pointed out that Pulitzers have long lost their prestige and professional character, having rewarded the Times and the Washington Post for their ‘Russiagate’ coverage – later completely debunked by the Mueller Report.

Both papers were praised by the Pulitzer Center in April 2018 for their “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage... that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”

Dismissing the award for Hannah-Jones is no laughing matter, warned Charles Lehman of the Washington Free Beacon, arguing it was a “key part of laundering the 1619 project into respectable discourse and, as is the stated ultimate goal, our schools' curriculum.” 

The Pulitzer Center itself has openly boasted of being a proud “education partner” for The 1619 Project and having “connected curricula based on the work of Hannah-Jones and her collaborators to some 4,500 classrooms since August 2019.” 

The ethical implications of one partner in the project honoring the other with a prestigious journalism prize are yet to be discussed.

In announcing the prizes on Monday, Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy painted US mainstream journalists as no less heroic than first responders and frontline healthcare workers, as they “continue to pursue and deliver essential facts and truths to keep us safe and to protect our democracy,” according to journalist Curtis Houck. 

Canedy worked at the New York Times for two decades before becoming the Pulitzer administrator at New York’s Columbia University in 2017. She is the first woman and first person of color to hold the position.

The Pulitzer Prize is named after a 19th-century media mogul Joseph Pulitzer, a pioneer of yellow journalism who endowed a graduate school of journalism at Columbia. It is considered the most prestigious media award in the US. 

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