[Update 3] Linda Solomon’s Faux Pulitzer “Nomination” (Or, Look What TIDES Canada Brought In…)

A book by a 'Puitzer Nominated' journalist- or, false advertising?

False advertising…

Update 3: The Observer has now re-posted Solomon’s book on their website– only, they have cropped the image of the book cover to hide the fact she claims to be Pulitzer nominated. They’ve also added a disclaimer about the book saying “Out of print since 2010”. And, still, no public apologies have been issued for the misrepresentation.

Update 2: A reader messaged me today and shared an interesting link including Solomon’s bio on TheCouch.com from 2006. What’s interesting about this link is how it mentions she worked at the Tennesseean, but makes no mention of her being nominated for a Pulitzer. So, this doesn’t appear to be a case of her making an innocent mistake for 30 years- mentions of her Pulitzer nomination all seem to be very recent. And, as I mentioned on the last update, The Observer took-down the link to her book posted in this article- but, there’s still another link remaining.

Update: Linda Solomon has yet to have given any response to this article- but, the Vancouver Observer have removed her book that was listed for sale on their site..

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The Pulitzer prize is an award for ‘achievements in newspaper and online journalism’. The award is administered by Columbia university in New York- who are distinguished by having one of the world’s most respected journalism schools. There are currently 21 awards given out each year, the highest is the Public Service Award- a gold medal assigned to a publication for “a distinguished example of meritorious public service”.

A work proposed for an award is first submitted to Pulitzer. At this stage it’s titled an ‘entrant’. Next, a jury selects a small group of nominated finalists. Up until 1980 the Pulitzer had no official designation of a person or work being ‘nominated’- works were submitted and winners were announced at a modest lunch ceremony.

Pulitzer has had a long-standing problem with people making false claims of being “Pulitzer nominated” writers- their FAQ makes this clear. Occasionally they’ve written letters asking people to stop- but, according to the Washington Post, they don’t “zealously try to police” the problem. There have, however, been some pretty high profile cases of people being exposed.

The most famous case of a person exposed touting a faux nomination was Jonah Goldberg. He’s an ultraconservative writer who comes from a pretty classy family. His mother is Lucianne Goldberg- a woman famous for her involvement in ‘dirty tricks’. In 1972 she was caught getting paid by a friend in Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign to spy on McGovern. Then, during President Clinton’s sex scandal, she convinced Linda Tripp to betray Monica Lewinsky by recording their phone calls and keeping the famous stained dress.

Jonah Goldberg was caught in 2008 when a claim was published on the back of his book that he had been nominated for two Pulitzers. Only, he most certainly had not- he was only an ‘entrant’. All that had happened was that someone filled-out a form and paid $50. Goldberg publicly apologized  and stopped making that claim- but, in 2010, another book was published with the same claim. There’s still a debate as to whether the second incident was ‘innocent’ or not- Goldberg claims that a third party was responsible for the mistake.

What’s fascinating about the Goldberg incident was how it clearly it exposed the hypocrisy of conservative pundits. Fox News was busy underplaying Goldberg’s blatant misrepresentation. John Nolte of Breitbart.com criticised MSNBC’s breaking story. He tried to re-frame the lie to make it seem that because it was “not uncommon” that people have cheated it was unfair to criticise Goldberg’s decision to cheat.

Meanwhile, people in the rest of the media chimed in with more realistic (and sometimes funny) responses. A writer on Gawker joked that Goldberg was as much of a two-time Pulitzer nominee as he is a “Three-time World’s Best Dad Nominee”. A story on the Atlantic Wire discussed how Goldberg’s Fake Pulitzer Nomination Will Follow Him Forever– with all of the books printed, newspaper articles, and links to online stories, he can’t really sweep this mistake under the rug. Then there was this great cartoon.

goldberg-cartoon_pulitzer

From a Canadian perspective, today’s story is at least as high profile as what happened to Goldberg. It features Linda Solomon- the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Observer.

Politically speaking, the Observer is very left leaning- many people complain that they’re too overly sympathetic towards the NDP, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his team at Vision Vancouver. This isn’t a coincidence either, Linda Solomon is the sister of Joel Solomon, the Vice-Chair of TIDES Canada and the president of a social venture firm called Renewal Partners. Their father, Jay Solomon, is credited with putting Jimmy Carter in office- Linda and Joel were volunteers on the Carter campaign. On her appearance on the Fanny Keifer Show, Solomon explains her relationship to Al Gore.

Linda & Joel Solomon come from the heart of the American power elite…

The NDP's Thomas Mulcair & David Eby making a personal appearance at Joel Solomon's pad...

The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair & David Eby making a private appearance at Joel Solomon’s pad…

Back in 1978, when Solomon was still sharpening her teeth as a journalist, she worked at a Nashville based newspaper called The Tennessean. There she was involved (with a woman named Carolyn Shoulders) in writing what she describes as a series that’s an “investigation of exploitation of the poor by the insurance industry.”

Solomon has claimed that, because of this work, she was rewarded the distinction of being a “Pulitzer nominated” journalist. There are a couple of problems with that. First, she hasn’t, her work was submitted as an ‘entrant’ (someone mailed it in), but it was not considered as a finalist. The next problem is that her entry was submitted in 1979, a year when there was no official designation of being “nominated”. This has been conformed by Pulitzer, and is clearly stated in their FAQ:

Taken from the Pulitzer FAQ

Taken from the Pulitzer FAQ

In Goldberg’s embarrassing incident, his claim of being Pulitzer nominated was printed in his biography on the back of his book. In Solomon’s case the claim is boldly written on the cover as a part of the subtitle:

“Reflections on a City By A Pulitzer-Nominated American Journalist.”

Anyone who bought the book who wasn’t familiar with Solomon was quite likely influenced by the fact the author was claimed to be Pulitzer nominated. The book is still being promoted as having been nominated on the Vancouver Observer’s website. There’s also a glowing recommendation by Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.

The nomination is also mentioned on the Observer’s Meet Our Team page. The Observer also used Solomon’s faux nomination as a way to entice young writers to join her team:

“…the successful candidate will have the opportunity to gain experience working with a Pulitzer-nominated journalist in the world of online and print media.”

If you look at Solomon’s bio on the Vancouver Observer’s website today, you won’t see any mention of her being nominated for a Pulitzer. However, previously, it was clearly stated that Solomon was nominated- here’s a screenshot.

Selection_596

In addition to selling books and promoting her publication, Solomon has also used her claim of being Pulitzer nominated to sell a writer’s retreat she led on behalf of the Hollyhock Institute. The course was called Writing from the Edge of Social Change and is promoted on Renewal Partners website. Participants had to pay $165 for her tuition, plus the considerable cost of accommodation at Hollyhock, and the cost of transportation (a lovely place, check out the pictures from my stay there last year).

Let's hope she gives refunds...

Let’s hope she gives refunds…

Solomon also teaches journalism classes at Vancouver’s Emily Carr School of Art and Design. Her biography there doesn’t mention a Pulitzer nomination, and there’s no archived version available. However, in 2012, one of her students wrote in her blog that “Linda is a brilliant, Pulitzer nominated journalist from New York”.

Her Pulitzer claim is also highlighted on an article in BC Business Magazine- profiling her as one of the city’s Top Players and Pundits. Solomon’s claim was also published in her bio for the Gaining Ground conference where she spoke alongside Gregor Robertson and Joel Solomon.

Selection_597

When she spoke at the Model United Nations last November her bio made no mention of being nominated for a Pulitzer. But, it does say that she’s been nominated for one of BC’s Jack Webster journalism awards. According to their website, the only limitation to nominating someone for this award is that they’re a BC based journalist. Anyone can send in a nomination, and there’s no charge to do so.

Selection_599

Now, here’s where the story gets more interesting. In June 2012, Solomon’s newspaper was awarded the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Excellence In Journalism award in the small/local media category. It’s unknown if Solomon’s Pulitzer claim was documented in her submission. That said, considering Solomon had made this claim in so many places, it would have been hard for them to miss this fact. They’d certainly understand the need to be sceptical about Pulitzer nomination claims. The CJF have been requested to comment but have yet to respond.

There was some controversy after the Observer was given the award. There were complaints that the Observer is too close to Vancouver’s ruling elite and might not be truly independent. Another valid criticism is that the Observer’s column inches been used for some deeply personal and unethical attacks. A great example of this is Sandy Garossino’s vicious attack against Vivian Krause in August. Garossino’s debating tactics included making tasteless remarks about Krause’s age, appearance and employment status.

Many people have called Garossino out on her deeply personal attacks. She has yet to have retracted her offensive words about Krause and has continued a pattern of bullying attacks on a number of high-profile people in the media. It is unclear whether Solomon was or is aware of the content in Garossino’s article (she’s the editor). Solomon has been contacted for input in this story but hasn’t issued a response.

The Solomons come from a place of great privilege. They have access to the power, influence and money of the American elite. They’re in Canada now, pushing 100’s of millions of dollars into campaigns and lobbying efforts while funding and promoting their favoured politicians. There are many people who perceive that their power is beginning to eclipse that of ordinary Canadians.

If Canadians are to trust their influence on our country’s policies they must take extra-special care to be honest, transparent, and to ensure that people who ask fair questions about them aren’t getting hurt…

 

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