Michael Gartner received the Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing in 1997 for editorials published in The Daily Tribune in Ames. He was co-owner and editor of the newspaper at the time. The Pulitzer board praised his “common sense editorials” for covering “issues deeply affecting the lives of people in his community,” including local issues ranging from ordinances controlling where signs could be placed to a proposed lap dancing law.
The podcast is part of an IowaWatch Connection-Humanities Iowa series on Pulitzer Prize-winning Iowa journalism. The series is part of the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, a joint venture of the Pulitzer Prizes Board and the Federation of State Humanities Council and Humanities Iowa, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities in celebration of the 2016 centennial of the Prizes. The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism—IowaWatch was awarded a $4,500 Humanities Iowa contract as a partner in the Pulitzer project. IowaWatch selected the topics covered in IowaWatch Connection programs and how to report them. Other Iowa media outlets involved in the project are Iowa Public Television and Iowa Public Radio.
“It effects their daily lives, so you want to explore the issue and then you want to kind of come down on where you think it ought to be given the overall makeup of the town, of where we are, of who we are, of our history and things like that. So you are kind of a historian, kind of a commentator, you’re kind of a bomb. The one thing you don’t want to be is a common scold,” he said of editorial writing.
Gartner, the owner and president of the Iowa Cubs, has held many jobs and titles over the years. He worked as the Wall Street Journal page one editor, at the Des Moines Register in a variety of positions including editor and president before becoming general news executive for the Gannett Company and USA Today, editor of the Courier-Journal in Louisville and president of NBC News. He served on the Pulitzer Prize Board and on the Iowa Board of Regents.
He said the Pulitzer Prize is recognized as a significant achievement in journalism and joked that it was an “obituary changer.”
“It’s certainly very nice, but the day after you win one you go back to work.”
Listen to the entire podcast above.
Listen to the full interview here.