Cheer and loathing as Pulitzer Prize goes to New York Times’s controversial 1619 Project
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.
“Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom.”Congratulations to @nhannahjones, whose #1619 Project essay has won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary https://t.co/A0KqJRP5Dxpic.twitter.com/UaOAQOI22E— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) May 4, 2020
“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.
NYT 1619 Project awarded Pulitzer Prize was subject of 'update' and 'clarification' after some top academic historians said it was 'unbalanced,' 'one-sided,' 'wrong in so may ways,' 'not only ahistorical, but anti-historical,' and 'tendentious.' https://t.co/7kUuRsVatw— Byron York (@ByronYork) May 4, 2020
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.”
6/x The NYT & Pulitzer are now both expressly partisan, consumed with Trump-hatred, history “reframing,” race-baiting, dishonest propagandists. Denounced by serious historians. It’s truly sad. Now, more than ever, we need real journalists. And they’re not even pretending anymore.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 4, 2020
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.
Yes, some Pulitzer winners are particularly ahistorical and an affront to journalism. But did you forget previous years' Russia hoax winners? Do you forget what these awards are actually for? Why treat them as something they are not? Less complaining, more reality-based response.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 4, 2020
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.”
People laughing miss the point — a Pulitzer win is a key part of laundering the 1619 project into respectable discourse and, as is the stated ultimate goal, our schools' curriculum https://t.co/LlujttrUqJ— Charles Fain Lehman (@CharlesFLehman) May 4, 2020
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.
Despite relentless assaults on objective truth, coordinated efforts to undermine our nation’s free press, and persistent economic headwinds, journalists continue to pursue and deliver essential facts and truths to keep us safe and to protect our democracy.— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) May 4, 2020
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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