'The Onion' Campaigns For Pulitzer Prize

"America's Finest News Source" finally wants its due. The Onion, responsible for headlines like "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job" and "Drugs Win War On Drugs," is demanding arguably the most prestigious award in American journalism: a Pulitzer Prize. Robert Siegel talks to Will Tracy, associate editor at The Onion, about the fake newspaper's campaign to get a Pulitzer — any Pulitzer.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Over the years, The Onion, the satirical newspaper, has broken some big stories. My favorite of all time was The Onion's story that the U.S. Congress was threatening to leave Washington for the suburbs, if it didn't get a new building with more parking, luxury sky boxes and a retractable dome. That story, like several other Onion scoops, was picked up as real news, in that case by a newspaper in Beijing.

As a recent ad in The Onion puts it, there have been more that 8,000 Pulitzer Prizes awarded since 1917 - isn't it about time The Onion received one? That is from the Americans for Fairness in Awarding Journalism Prizes. And the AFAJP has some powerful supporters.

Ms. ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post): Hi, I'm Arianna Huffington.

Mr. IRA GLASS (Host, "The American Life"): Hey there, I'm Ira Glass.

Mr. TOM HANKS (Actor): Hello, I'm Tom Hanks. Thank you.

Ms. HUFFINGTON: If The Onion does not receive a Pulitzer, I will make sure that every link on The Huffington Post goes directly to the Columbia Journalism School website and cripples it.

Mr. GLASS: They already have an entire category for editorial cartooning, isn't The Onion better than that? And not still mired in the aesthetics of the year 1760 like apparently all of you are.

Mr. HANKS: ...Who gather annually in what must be some all-night drunken bacchanalia/pinata party, the result of which is the awarding of the prized Pulitzer.

SIEGEL: Well, joining us now to talk about the campaign for The Onion to receive a Pulitzer Prize is Will Tracy, associate editor of The Onion. Welcome to the program.

Mr. WILL TRACY (Associate Editor, The Onion): Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: And why does The Onion deserve a Pulitzer?

Mr. TRACY: Well, the way I see it, we've accomplished pretty much everything that can be accomplished. I think we are the most dominant force in journalism right now. I think we bring in more ad revenue than any other paper or radio show or television show.

The one thing that we have not accomplished so far is won a Pulitzer Prize. And in my mind, it comes down to a simple prejudice that the Pulitzer board has against The Onion.

SIEGEL: Now, The Onion bills its current issue as the 1,000th issue. By the way, the 1,000th issue and that ad says more than 8,000 Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded.

Mr. TRACY: That's right.

SIEGEL: These numbers, you've actually checked these out? Or are these rounded up, let's say?

Mr. TRACY: Recordkeeping is generally not a big virtue at The Onion. It's not one of our main skills. But from what we can tell, give or take a few thousand, I think that's how many Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TRACY: And in terms of the thousand issues, we think we know it's summer 2011 and we think it's June-ish.

SIEGEL: Currently, you have such stories as, I'm just reading the headlines, "Angela Merkel Opens Up to the Only Newspaper She Trusts." The work you do is so important, that's to The Onion. "Police Find Missing Journalistic Excellence in Onion Newsroom."

Mr. TRACY: Yes.

SIEGEL: And "Previous Pulitzer Winners Say It Feels So Hollow Knowing There Are Far More-Deserving Institutions."

Mr. TRACY: I appreciate them saying that. Obviously, they're not going to give their Pulitzer Prizes back. I think they should, but I appreciate at least acknowledging the fact that we deserve it more than they do.

SIEGEL: What do you think is The Onion's best category here for a Pulitzer?

Mr. TRACY: You know, it can come in a lot of forms really. I mean, I think we would also take whatever they're giving out. I think it could be National Journalism, I think it could be Breaking News. I think we'd also accept one of those special awards and citations like Bob Dylan got.

SIEGEL: You know, humorists have been awarded prizes for commentary. And I believe Onion TV won a Peabody Award.

Mr. TRACY: Yes, we did. Yes.

SIEGEL: Not too long ago. So this is more realistic than the Congress moving off to suburban Virginia, say.

Mr. TRACY: It's not unprecedented. And in fact, I think we were told after the 2008 election, somebody suggested that we submit. And so, we actually have submitted. Apparently we didn't enclose enough money with our submission or something because we never really heard back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TRACY: And I'm not sure, I don't know, maybe we were supposed to wash Thomas Friedman's car or something. I'm not sure what it takes at this point.

SIEGEL: I'm trying to imagine what The Onion headline would be if you actually did win a Pulitzer.

Mr. TRACY: Well, I don't think there would be a headline, because I think the day that we would receive a Pulitzer, I think we would pretty much shut down everything for a good while so we could just have time to gloat.

SIEGEL: Will Tracy, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. TRACY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Will Tracy, associate editor of The Onion.

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