I was roused from an unusually restful sleep yesterday for reasons utterly alien to a news-paper publisher: a meeting with the normally biddable and pliant Onion Board of Directors and, more unusual even than that, with the burgeoning horde of miscellaneous and endlessly multiplying functionaries who refer to themselves as my executive editors. For them to request an audience is oddly courageous, considering I care-fully cultivate cowardice in my direct underlings, and I knew it could only mean one thing: On the occasion of this, our 1,000th issue, a fresh generation of Onion employees must think it desirable to seek Pulitzer’s eternally God-damned Prize!
As any diligent student of American journalism, history, and criminology knows full well, I have been at war with Joseph Pulitzer since the start of his measly little career. At first, he showed a measure of promise, and was one of the leading lights among Onion copyboys, cheerfully going about his work, always busy, never requesting fresh crusts or more sleeping-hay. But then he contracted a disease that any publisher or editor worth his salt will tell you is death in the news-paper business. He began asking questions. “Why are the cartoons not in color? Why are Mr. Zweibel’s editorials about the Whigs when most of them are long dead? Does manipulating the masses with appeals to their baser instinct sell a lot of papers?” All he got for his trouble was a box on the ear, but that did not deter him. Neither was he swayed when we beat him with straps and kicked him out into the February storms to die of exposure, as was the tradition in those more virile times.
Some-how he not only survived, but started up his own news-paper, the World, shortly after-wards. I will give him credit for being a horsehide-bound, brass-plated son-of-a-bitch, but not for being a news-paper-man! He was a loath-some panderer who could not even start a simple war with Spain without help from that other fulminating ass-hole, William Randolph Hearst. And yet not two decades later, he set up a prize foundation to honor achievements in the news-paper and writing fields! At least I have the gumption and back-bone not to pretend I am saving the world with one hand while penning warmongering missives to President McKinley with the other. I believe to this day that Cubans should be boiled alive in their filthy rum-barrels, and my editorials reflect that.
Also, with the exception of Margaret Mitchell’s excellent work of history, Gone With The Wind, every single person or publication to win the Pulitzer Prize has been undiluted sewage.
And now my mewling, puking editors, mere boys reeking of the damp clutch of their wet-nurses, tell me the Pulitzer is desirable, and seen as a mark of quality for the readers. For the readers! Have they listened to a single word I have ever said? Readers are of scant importance to a news-paper, and the very idea of integrity and rigor in journalism has been shown to frighten away even the hardiest of advertisers, even the marauding manufacturers of high-tension liquors, whore’s rags, and insurance who have stood by us through all else!
But for revenge? That is an all-together different matter! I am told that Pulitzer himself is dead, struck down by the heart-attacks on his yacht, a scow of infamy whose hold was no doubt stocked with the peachy ethanol his besotted Hungarian ilk gulp down by the cask-full. As an affront to his hatred of everything I stand for, I can think of no better revenge than for The Onion to receive the prize that bears his name.
So enjoy these Pulitzer-worthy offerings, you self-congratulatory, self-centered, self-styled intellectuals! Here are stories hewn from the very living bedrock of journalism, carved into perfect inverted pyra-mids by editorial masons, and held together with the honeyed mortar of earnest-ness and popular sentiment. If these are not worthy of Pulitzer’s jumped-up, scrap-heap medallion, then I do not know what is.
T. Herman Zweibel, the great grandson of Onion founder Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel, was born in 1868, became editor of The Onion at age 20, and persisted in various editorial posts until his launching into space in 2001. Zweibel’s name became synonymous with American business success in the 20th century. Many consider him the “Father Of American Journalism,” also the title of his well-known 1943 biography, written by Norman Rombauer.