An open letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board

Distinguished members of the Board:

First off, let me take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Mike Luckovich on the occasion of his second Pulitzer. Mike is inarguably one of the most talented daily editorial cartoonists in print today, and deserves all of the accolades he could ever possibly receive, and then some. None of the following is meant to detract from his achievement, nor from that of any of the dozens of other daily editorial cartoonists who have received this profession’s highest honor over the years (including, oddly enough, my wife’s grandfather in 1933).

But here’s the thing: there are quite a few professional political cartoonists working today, obviously including myself, whose careers have been primarily shaped by the alternative press (not to mention many up-and-coming cartoonists whose work appears primarily online). And — to put this delicately — the Pulitzers don’t really seem to be keeping up with the times, at least when it comes to cartooning. The only Pulitzer ever awarded to a cartoonist from the alternative press was given to Jules Feiffer in 1986. If Jules’ Pulitzer were a person, it would be old enough to vote. It would be a year away from drinking legally in every state in the union.

The only other remotely non-traditional (i.e. non-daily-editorial-page) cartoonists to have been recognized within my lifetime are Garry Trudeau in 1975 and Berke Breathed in 1987. And the last time, to my knowledge, that an alternative editorial cartoonist of any kind was even considered was when Ted Rall made the short list a full ten years ago.

The media landscape has changed dramatically since the Pulitzers were founded, and there are a lot of cartoonists these days whose work is distributed in ways that Joseph Pulitzer could never have imagined possible — and whose styles do not conform to the traditional editorial cartoon template. And I can’t help but wonder: do any of us have the remotest chance of ever being considered for this honor, or should we just stop bothering to submit our portfolios each year? Do the judges even glance at these entries, or are they tossed straight onto the discard pile as soon as the entry fee has been retrieved? Most importantly: if the Pulitzer Prize for Cartooning is really the Pulitzer Prize for Daily Newspaper Editorial Page Preferrably Single Panel Cartooning, Others Need Not Apply, would you mind letting us know? That way we can stop wasting our time, and yours, applying for a prize for which we are not actually eligible.

With best regards,

Tom Tomorrow

P.S. To those whose immediate response is “ha! he certainly does not deserve a Pulitzer,” let me just reply in advance: you are probably correct. But I would maintain that the entire field of alternative cartoonists do not deserve to be similarly dismissed out of hand.