Jason Whitlock thinks very highly of himself. Yesterday, he did a column on Ball State’s website (he’s a 1990 graduate), bemoaning the fact that he isn’t eligible for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize since he writes for Foxsports.com.
Before I touch on the questionable notion of Whitlock winning a Pulitzer, there’s another item that needs to be addressed.
Whitlock claims in the piece that the Associated Press Sports Editors are biased against minority columnists in the judging of their annual contest. He writes:
The annual Associated Press Sports Editors awards do not generally and/or consistently recognize the kind of columns I regard as courageous, honest, original and opinion-driven. The APSE prefers storytellers. Its awards also consistently reflect the anti-minority-perspective bias pervasive throughout the sportswriting industry. Sportswriting is a good-old-boy network. It’s very difficult — perhaps impossible — for a person of color who writes from a minority perspective to be recognized as the best at anything in sportswriting.
That’s not a charge of racism. It’s a charge of bias, an affliction we all have.
As best I can tell, no non-white has won the APSE’s column-writing contest. Google “African-American winners of the Pulitzer Prize.” The list is deep and goes back many years. The Pulitzer Prize is far more prestigious and competitive than an APSE.
You can examine almost every aspect of writing as an art form and find examples of minorities being recognized as the best in any given year. Sportswriting is the exception.
Oh, there have been great minority candidates. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Miami Herald’s Dan Le Batard (a Cuban-American) was as talented, insightful and provocative as any columnist working in America. Before Michael Wilbon became a television star, he wrote some of the best sports columns I’ve ever read. Bryan Burwell had a run in the 1990s and is strong again in St. Louis. Shaun Powell laid it down at Newsday. When I showed up at the Kansas City Star in 1994, I shook the entire Midwest and eventually the country.
None of us has ever been quite good enough to reach the top. It’s my belief that our minority perspective is off-putting to predominantly white male judges.
OK Jason, here are a few facts: That “good-old-boy network” network has awarded the best columnist award in the large circulation to the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins for two straight years; she also won in previous years. The same Sally Jenkins, who happens to be a woman. When it comes to minorities, women still are rare in the press box. Who would have thunk it from a “good-old-boy network?”
Also, Whitlock probably isn’t aware that the judges see entries that are devoid of all names and any identifying marks for a newspaper or website. It is just plain type. So it’s hard for the good-old white boys to know if they are slighting a minority columnist.
Finally, Whitlock probably should take a look at the APSE website. The sports editors, “the good-old-boys,” have an extensive diversity program, which outlines scholarship programs and seminars aimed at prospective minority journalists. The association knows it has to improve the minority presence in the profession.
And it isn’t as if Whitlock has been shut out in this contest. In recent years, he finished third in 2009 and tied for fourth in 2007.
I know many members of the APSE. I don’t think they have bias. I believe they have been fair in their judging.
As for the Pulitzer portion of the column, Whitlock’s entry was returned because the contest isn’t open to “broadcast media” outlets. Now that seems ridiculous given the content that is being generated on those sites. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, Whitlock believes he’s worthy this year.
Last year, it’s my belief, I had my best year as a columnist. It all came together. I perfected my column style. For years, I’ve tried to take sports headlines and transform them into lessons about American society at large. Royko’s columns helped shape my view of America. In 2012, I was like Mike.
OK, now he’s comparing himself to Mike Royko. As I said, Whitlock thinks highly of himself.
Whitlock notes that the Pulitzers suck when it comes to sportswriters. I lamented about the shabby treatment when last year’s winners were announced. Among columnists in the last 40 years, only Red Smith, Dave Anderson and Jim Murray have been given the award, and the last one was more than two decades ago.
Whitlock, though, thinks he has the goods if only he was considered. Now he wants to add his face to this Mt. Rushmore of sportswriting legends. Think about it: Smith, Anderson, Murray….Whitlock?
Yep, hard for me to picture too.