Like everybody else around here, I’m trying to take in this whole Pulitzer Prize thing. I was working at the doctor’s office when word got out and must blushingly confess that my first reaction was, “OK, there must be a thousand Pulitzer Prizes. Is it really that big a deal?”
Later, on the phone with a friend of mine who works at the paper, I was set straight. “Now wait a minute, pal. This ain’t no run of the mill, best headline type of Pulitzer,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“This is THE top and most distinguished award in print journalism — the Public Service gold medal. It gets no better. The New York Times has already called the news editor for a quote and NPR just made a broadcast announcement. Now do you get it?”
Well, yes. People have been coming up to me, shooting texts or sending emails ever since offering congratulations (like I had anything to do with it). To which I’m compelled to ask: What took the Pulitzer Committee so long to figure it out? We’re already known as the South’s oldest daily newspaper, have been in business for over 200 years and crank out a superior daily product built on the legacy of outstanding talent that has served the company over the decades.
Actually, what was then known as The News and Courier won a Pulitzer in 1925 for editorial writing, and reporter Tony Bartelme has been a finalist twice since 2011, but smaller newspapers are generally passed over for the Wall Street Journals and Washington Posts of the world, not to mention the Gray Lady herself.
So this is a multi-generational, less than once-in-a-lifetime achievement, and all the credit in the world goes not only to the specific honorees (Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff) but to an outstanding newsroom, all the editors, and the publisher who help foster and perpetuate an atmosphere of excellence.
A moment ago I mentioned legacy. Recognition must also be paid to the old guard no longer with us who helped build this house, and yet never vicariously got to enjoy such honors. To the likes of Arthur Wilcox, who died six months ago and missed it by a hair, to Hall McGee, Tom Waring, Edward and Peter Manigault, their great predecessors and mentors, and many others, including a distinguished list of vibrant retirees whose influence remains palpable.
And lastly, to my own dad, Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. Missing the Red Sox win their first series in 2004 after an 86-year drought and now this would have been too much for him, if he weren’t already gone.
I had a lovely visit to Southern California a couple of weekends ago to visit our daughter. The weather was perfect, everything was in bloom, and the words “sunny” and “blue” grotesquely understated the conditions.
We putzed around Venice Beach one morning and for a brief time I had a nearly irresistible urge to visit a “Green Doctors” office, as advertised by a shingle emblazoned with a marijuana leaf, and where treatments specialize in migraines, insomnia, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, glaucoma, nausea, arthritis, AIDS, ADD, ADHD and cancer. Surely they can find something wrong with me and treat accordingly, I thought.
But thankfully I was distracted by a quirky bookstore with a maze of corridors, unusual volumes, and the musty smell of worn pages and a few pets lounging about. There were about 50 books I wanted right there on the spot, but settled on Neil Young’s latest, “Special Deluxe — A Memoir of Life and Cars.”
Meanwhile, my daughter insisted we had to drive to Hollywood and have lunch at the Chateau Marmont because it’s beautiful and interesting and historic and cool and that’s where all the celebrities hang out. It’s the real Hotel California, she said.
It’s all that, I suppose, with lovely Spanish-Moorish architectural style that overlooks the waving palms of Sunset Boulevard. After we’d ordered, Catherine excused herself for a moment and I randomly opened the book to page 149.
The first sentence I read was this: “Before moving to the North Country in 1970, I lived for a while at the Chateau Marmont, a gracious old hotel in Hollywood that looks down over Sunset Boulevard.”
Needless to say, those were some good vibrations.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.