If there are any doubts left whether or not the Pulitzer Prize is as fundamentally corrupt and wrong-minded as the Oscars, then the recent awarding to Kim Murphy, the Los Angeles Times' correspondent here in Moscow, makes it painfully obvious.
To see why, start with the LA Times' comic description of why "Bigfoot" Murphy, as she is known by her colleagues, won the Pulitzer: "The veteran reporter's stories were driven, according to the Times' nomination, by a 'restless curiosity' that took her from the resurgent jazz clubs of Moscow ('Did Stalin have a boogie soul?' she wondered) to the oil boomtown of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (a place, she wrote, that 'Russia wears like a holstered gun on its eastern hip')."
So in her best and most restlessly curious moments, Murphy boldly visited Moscow's few jazz clubs--that is, clubs that play 100-year-old American music. And she came away from that experience by firing off a Pulitzer-pleasing zinger about Stalin's "boogie soul," a question as profoundly funny as anything ever quipped on The King of Queens--if that show ever decided to make light of Stalin's holocaust, that is. As you'll see, "Bigfoot" Murphy has a history of, shall we say, showing us that Holocausters are people too.
The oddest thing about the LA Times' article congratulating its Pulitzer-winning staffers is that it's just factually wrong. In the first place, Murphy used her holstered-gun metaphor to describe the shape of Sakhalin Island, and not the city Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Not that the analogy makes any more sense when applied to Sakhalin. In purely representational terms, Sakhalin looks nothing at all like a holstered gun--for one thing, there's no gun handle, just a long turd-shaped island. If Murphy had a grasp of real metaphor, she would have written, "Russia wears Sakhalin like a wet turd that it can't shake from its ass because it's too drunk to wipe properly." If that wouldn't qualify as "eloquent," then at least she could have opted for accuracy and written that Sakhalin is a place that "Russia wears like a holstered gun whose handle was mysteriously removed for the sake of my eloquent metaphor."
Murphy is to be commended for covering all of the big Russia stories of the last year, effected with all of the safe centrism expected of an "objective" American journalist. Indeed "Bigfoot" Murphy may go down in local legend as the most prolific American correspondent ever to work the Moscow beat. While nearly all writers, particularly talented writers, tend to suffer through every article, always missing deadline and skipping entire assignments in a screeching sweat-bath of whiny mental anguish, Murphy is an editor's dream. She moves the chains, three yards and a cloud of dirt, every time.
Her editor at the LA Times, Marjorie Miller, said as much: "She is so incredibly dogged and so good at what she does and has what I always think of as news in her blood," Miller told colleagues at an evening reception. "She just knows where to go and how to get there ahead of everyone else." If Chechens take hostages, she's there to cover the story. If there's no terror for a few weeks, she's at the jazz clubs waxing poetically about Stalin's wacky dance moves. She can even forge something as seemingly banal as weather into an article, as demonstrated in her January 14th, 2005 piece, "Hot and Bothered, Russians' Patience Melts With the Snow." In it, she quotes several Russians complaining about the weather. What a scoop! Russians complaining about weather! Yup, she's got news in her blood all right.
Separated at stable?
Popular TV horse Mr. Ed...
...and prolific media whore Kim Murphy?