Pulitzer-Winning Columnist Can't Be Pigeon-Holed

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Host Scott Simon talks with columnist Kathleen Parker, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

It's hard to put Kathleen Parker into any kind of pigeonhole. She's the conservative columnist who questioned Sarah Palin's fitness for high office. She's the feminist who wrote a book saying that men are being mocked and devalued. She is pointed, funny, and a superb stylist.

But after this week, you dont need to label our friend Kathleen Parker by any ideology - just say Pulitzer Prize winner. Kathleen has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. She joins us in our studios.

Congratulations. Thanks for being with us.

Ms. KATHLEEN PARKER (Columnist): Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: And I understand that youve reappraised your assessment of the prize after winning it.

Ms. PARKER: Well, you know - yeah. All those years when other people were winning Pulitzers, I just thought - I dismissed it as, you know, it's a political game, it means nothing. And I've totally reassessed that now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: It's a real indication of quality, isnt it?

Ms. PARKER: It completely is, and I just have the greatest admiration for the Pulitzer board...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Now that theyve seen fit to recognize you.

Ms. PARKER: Exactly.

SIMON: So whats it feel like?

Ms. PARKER: It's a thrill. You know, it's more fun than I ever could have imagined. First of all, I was completely surprised. I didnt know that I was even in the running. I did know I'd been nominated, but I've been nominated many times and thats actually not such a big deal, cause you can nominate yourself.

I had heard the finalists always were notified or it leaked, and so you kind of had a month or so to obsess about it. Well, that didnt happen and so since I hadn't heard anything, I just assumed I was not in the final running. So I put it out of my mind. I didnt even know Monday was Pulitzer Day.

So when I got the call, I was completely speechless. My hands started shaking. And you know, you're a little embarrassed to be so moved by something, but it's a lot of fun.

SIMON: Do you see this as any kind of recognition for people who are considered conservative columnists?

Ms. PARKER: Well, it's pretty unprecedented, when you think about it. The Pulitzers have often gone to more left-leaning, more liberal commentators. I mean, George Will has won one, and Charles Krauthammer. I think that pretty much covers it.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. PARKER: My entry, which I did not put together, just covered a lot of different subjects. But among them were two abortion columns. Normally, if you had the word abortion in a column that was not pro-choice - and mine is not anti anything, it's sort of pro let's think about this - that alone would, I think, suggest that conservatives may feel a little more validated as a result of this.

SIMON: Whats the role of a columnist who writes a few times a week in these days, when there are bloggers who put up something new every hour?

Ms. PARKER: Well, my role always has been to write an interesting column. There are a lot of people who are more knowledgeable than I on a given subject. You know, certainly if you want some breaking information on a constitutional issue, you might go to a lawyer blog and get some good, meaty information. But thats not at all the way I see myself.

First of all, I come out of the newsroom. Im an old-fashioned columnist. That means it is, in part, personality-driven. But mainly for me, it's an essay, and I try to make it as pleasant to read as I possibly I can. I really struggle with the writing part of it. And Im, of course, making an argument but ultimately for me, it's a little gem - and not all of them are, obviously, but thats what I am really aiming for.

SIMON: But as - I dont have to tell you, we now inhabit a media landscape in which...

Ms. PARKER: Yeah, our days are numbered.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PARKER: No question about it. Im glad I got this before it's all over.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, there are people who will tell you that you dont get any kind of attention unless you post something 20 times a day.

Ms. PARKER: Well, I think that may be true, that you get a certain kind of attention. But Im not sure. You know, after a while, it begins to sound like background noise. I dont have 20 interesting things to say a day, and I dont think many people do.

SIMON: There are people who believe that conservatives dont have a sense of humor.

Ms. PARKER: Oh, we're the funniest people on earth. Are you kidding?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PARKER: Yeah, I mean, Chris Buckley? Please.


Ms. PARKER: Im actually...

SIMON: You and Christopher Buckley are very funny.

Ms. PARKER: Shoot, Mark Steyn is a hoot.

SIMON: You know, you're convincing me. Mark Steyn is very funny.

Ms. PARKER: Right.

SIMON: Kathleen, thanks so much.

Ms. PARKER: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: And congratulations.

Ms. PARKER: It's wonderful to be here and see you.

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