Yes, newspapers still care about Pulitzer prizes. Prompted by yesterday's news that the Times has two Pulitzer finalists in criticism who nominated themselves, a whisper campaign has begun in the newsroom over the role of Sasha Anawalt, director of the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg. She also sits on the Pulitzer jury for the criticism category, making her influential in the selection of finalists. The unsubstantiated buzz was that she claimed at a dinner party last weekend to have swayed the jury toward her friends Mark Swed and Christopher Knight, who are believed to be finalists, and away from the LAT's preferred nominees: Tim Rutten, Ann Powers and Christopher Hawthorne. Her supposed reasoning was that the choice of Swed and Knight would send a message to the Times that the Pulitzers value arts coverage over pop culture and Hollywood.
Well, Anawalt tells LA Observed that she can't talk about the confidential jury discussions, but she says the Times whispers are hooey. "That is absolutely, patently untrue," she says. There are 5 to 7 people on a jury and the recommendations are unanimous, she adds. As for talk at a dinner party, Anawalt reports "I haven't had a conversation with anybody" about the Pulitzers.