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Radio, by its very impromptu nature, tends to play loose with the facts, and Tony Kornheiser, for one, has carved out a hugely successful career by walking that thin line between brilliant commentary and utter bullshit. But this morning on his talk show on Washington Post Radio, he ventured into a subject for which his ignorance was both bottomless and breathless: the Pulitzer Prize for criticism handed to LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold, the first food critic to walk away with the award.
Not having a transcript handy, I will do my own Kornheiser riff and attempt to give him a good smackdown with only a smattering of details that I half-remember from the broadcast while driving to work.
Kornheiser (more or less): I can understand someone winning it for architecture or drama or art but restaurants? From a weekly newspaper? I mean, that’s like someone wining it from the City Paper!
Eventually, one of Kornheiser’s on-air sidekicks (who sounded like Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., but I never heard an ID) says something like, “Hey, but Tom Sietsema is good.”
Kornheiser (more or less): Yeah, but he writes for a daily!
Well, let’s review one significant standard by which food critics are measured: the annual James Beard Foundation Awards. By my count, Gold has been nominated seven times. He has won four Beard awards, including three as food critic for the weekly alternative paper in Los Angeles.
Gold’s competition in 2005, when he won for best newspaper restaurant review or critique, were two food critics from weekly papers. No dailies, Tony, even though they’re figured into the mix. Gold’s competition in 2006, another winning year for him in the newspaper restaurant review category, included one weekly writer and a critic from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 1999, Gold beat out another weekly critic and one from the Boston Herald for the best newspaper restaurant review prize. In fact, weekly critics have won this particular category five out of 10 times since 1997.
Incidentally, Sietsema has been nominated three times. He has never won.