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Beline Obeid

No Pulitzer Prize for Frankenstein

FYI by Ben Burns

May 22, 2008
The Pulitzer Prize judges this spring were probably stumped. One of the finalists for the most coveted prize in journalism in the editorial category included a video clip of a darkly garbed chap in a Halloween mask. The masked man clumsily walks into a Wisconsin state legislative hearing and listens while lawmakers discussed how to ban "the Frankenstein veto."

The would-be Frankenstein character nods affirmatively as the legislators pointed out that Wisconsin's governor under the then-law had the right to partially veto bills by deleting a word here and changing numbers there, thus completely rewriting the state budget as presented to him.

That masked man was Phil Hands, a '97 South graduate, who draws editorial cartoons for Wisconsin's second largest daily — the Wisconsin State Journal. The video was part of the newspaper's campaign to educate voters that the law allowing the Frankenstein veto needed to be changed.

The Pulitzer jurors who selected the Wisconsin State Journal as a finalist described the newspaper's entry to the judges as a "persistent, high-spirited campaign against abuses in the governor's veto power."

Phil Hands
The entry package included editorials, Hands' cartoons and the video. The judges had probably never seen anything quite like it.

The way the Pulitzers in journalism work is that a group of editors from across the land review as many as 100 or more entries from newspapers of all sizes and shapes.

They screen them down to three or two or sometimes none and recommend them to the Pulitzer judges — a group of distinguished senior journalists that meets at Columbia University.

The judges then decide whether one of the finalists is worthy of the Pulitzer. Winning a Pulitzer, if you are not one of the premier dozen or so dailies in the land, is a little bit like hitting the Mega Million lottery. It is easier to get struck by lightning twice, so it is quite an honor to be a finalist.

The finalists this year were: Maureen Downey of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for compelling editorials on the harsh sentences that teenagers can receive for consensual sex in Georgia; Rodger Jones of The Dallas Morning News for relentless editorials that led to mandating roll-call votes on all statewide legislation in Texas; and the Wisconsin State Journal editorial staff. The judges chose not to give an award in the category and announced that decision March 31. It was the eighth time that decision had been made.

Hands was the editorial cartoonist for the Grosse Pointe News for more than a decade beginning when he was a junior in high school and continuing through 2007. The son of Karen Kendrick-Hands and Larry Hands of the Park received first place awards from the Milwaukee Press Club in 2005, '06 and '07 for best single editorial cartoons. He earned a B.A. in political science and studio art from Kenyon College in Ohio.

He also won a first place award in the regional Society of Professional Journalists editorial cartoon competition while earning his masters in journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He won the Associated Collegiate Press national award last year.

Ironically a week after the Pulitzers were announced, voters in Wisconsin went to the polls and approved a constitutional amendment that limited the governor's power to exercise what had become known as "The Frankenstein Veto." Had that occurred a month earlier, it would probably have strengthened the case for the State Journal winning the Pulitzer.

State Journal Editor Ellen Foley wrote: "I am also extremely proud of our editorial staff, which campaigned for more than a year to get the issue in front of voters. Opinion page editor Scott Milfred, freelance cartoonist and artist Phil Hands and editorial writer Charles Martin hammered away in provocative and engaging ways. They used old-fashioned tools, such as the unsigned editorial, and new tools on the web. . . .

"I spend a lot of time reading trade publications about how the news business is devoid of relevance, particularly for younger readers. This is hogwash. The Frankenstein campaign trumpets the State Journal's commitment to shine the big spotlight on problems that readers young and old care about."

You can read all of editor Foley's column at madison.com/wsj/home/opinion/28054. Embedded in the column is a link to the Frankenstein video.

You can catch up with Hands at his Web site: philtoons.com. He describes himself as "a pathetically loyal Detroit Tigers fan" living in Madison, WI. with his understanding wife, Tricia, and her cat.

50 Years

Theresa DiVirgil of St. Clair Shores, was named the first female president of the Rotary Club of Grosse Pointe in 1999-2000, spent a career in the travel business, first working for Jim Kearney and then running Kearney Travel Service.

She learned to take meticulous records and recently came across her notes about a trip to Florida she and her husband, Chuck, took half a century ago.

They set out on Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. and filled up with 10 gallons of gas in Bluffton, Ohio. The cost — $2.70. They returned Oct. 11 having spent $40.21 for gas and oil.

That first day they ate Swiss steak in Bellefontaine, Ohio. The cost $1.60 for both of them. In all, they spent $36.34 for meals during the 12 days including T-bone steaks for two in Tifton, Ga. for $3.60, and hamburgers for both of them in Daytona Beach for 72 cents.

They paid $15 to rent a cottage in Daytona Beach and so charmed the owner/manager that after two days he asked if they would stay an extra week "to take care of the place."

His wife had gone to Dallas. Her father died and he wanted to go there to spend a week with her.

Chuck and Theresa had to turn him down because they had to get back to their jobs, but she adds: "How trusting people were back then."

Total cost for the 11 day trip — $85.95 and that included post cards, stamps, groceries, a beach scooter rental, repair of a flat tire and a souvenir cup and saucer.

How times have changed.

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