Inga’s Zingers: Nine Great Quips from Pulitzer Winner Inga Saffron

Yesterday, the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced, and Inga Saffron of the Inquirer won the Pulitzer for criticism!

Saffron’s one of my favorite local writers, and I’m thrilled to see her win the prize after being a finalist several times before. (Unlike many other journalism awards, the Pulitzers are legit because they come with a cash prize — $10,000!) It’s extra cool because, well, how many American newspapers have an architecture critic on staff any more? Or ever?

As a big enthusiast of city living, I’m thrilled the Inquirer has such a passionate advocate for urbanism on its staff. Critics are important. The best critics have the opportunity to praise worthy subjects and call out crap. There’s just so much crap out there, in every field, and so much of it goes un-criticized — whether it’s because the people behind it are nice, or because they’re powerful, or whatever. Not all that crap deserves to be called out, but a lot of it does. And Inga Saffron is one of the best at it. I’d put her ability to call out crap at the level of another great critic and Pulitzer winner, Roger Ebert. She is that good.

To commemorate one of my favorite critics receiving such a prestigious award, I went through Saffron’s archives and found some of my favorite lines of hers.

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Interview: Pulitzer Winner Inga Saffron Watches Philly Grow

Inga Saffron. Photo: Bradley Maule

Inga Saffron. Photo: Bradley Maule

Truth be told, Inga Saffron seemed a little embarrassed about appearing on Philly Mag’s list of the city’s 75 most-powerful people. (The issue is on newsstands now.) “So far I have not succeeded in bending anybody to my will,” she emailed when we requested this interview.

But then Saffron on Monday won a Pulitzer Prize for her writing as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic. The award citation said she “blends expertise, civic passion and sheer readability into arguments that consistently stimulate and surprise,” and that sounds about right, even if she hasn’t bent anybody to her will.

Saffron talked with Philly Mag last week about architecture criticism, the late-arriving triumph of urbanism, and her fondness for Philadelphia. Some excerpts:

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Suburban Philly Papers May Go On Sale

Nieman Journalism Lab is reporting that Digital First Media — which owns dozens of community newspapers nationally, including a few in the Philadelphia suburbs and across Pennsylvania — will announce deep cuts to its online journalism operations, and is expected to auction off many of its newspapers.

Philly-area newspapers and news organizations owned by the company include Main Line Media News, the Lansdale Reporter, the Delco News Network  and others; Digital First owners nearly 30 properties, some print, some digital across the state.

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The Best Daily Paper in Town Is the Philadelphia Daily News*

dailynewsFirst of all, let’s grant that journalists take awards way too seriously — but for obvious reasons: Circulation reports and page-view analytics don’t always provide the psychic rewards of a trophy on one’s mantle. Since journalism awards are usually awarded by other journalists (and not by, say, the reading and viewing public) the whole thing can seem a bit self-congratulatory.

But let’s congratulate the Philadelphia Daily News, which this week took seven first-place awards and won the “sweepstakes” competition among the state’s biggest papers at the Keystone Press Awards. The Inquirer wasn’t too shabby either, taking four first-place awards.

And not to tweak the Inquirer — though, Lord knows, that can be an awful lot of fun sometimes — but a quick couple of words in defense of the perpetually under-threat Daily News: We’re not entirely sure why it’s survived as long as it has. We won’t say “great journalism” is the reason, because we know Pulitzer winners whose papers no longer exist. But what we can say is that the awards offer some small measure of what Philadelphia would be missing if the paper disappeared. Being the scrappy underdog kind is kind of in tune with this city’s soul anyway, no?

Update: Very clumsily, I omitted the great performance by City Paper in the awards. They also won the sweepstakes for their division — and, oh hey: They won NINE first-place awards in their division. A lot of good news reporting goes on at the alt weekly … which, judging by the awards, must be the real best paper in town, right?

Newsroom Shaken by Norcross Campaign Solicitation

This is what inevitably comes of having a political boss as a newspaper owner, perhaps: The newsrooms of the Inquirer and Daily News are again restless after some reporters received a campaign fund-raising letter from one of the paper’s co-owners, South Jersey political boss George Norcross.

Norcross’s spokesman, Daniel Fee, said the solicitation was inadvertent and wouldn’t happen again. Nonetheless, the Inquirer reports:

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The Ultimate Philadelphia Klout Ranking

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Klout, Inc. was founded in San Francisco in 2009. It measures online influence by using data from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, WordPress and a bunch of other social media platforms. Each user is assigned a Klout score on a scale from one to 100. The higher your score, the more influence you are said to have online.

Many Internet aficionados are skeptical or downright dismissive of Kloutjoin them at your own risk. Marketers and major companies take the very basic web analytic very seriously.

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