Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist, Wesley Morris, Is Joining the New York Times as a Critic-at-Large

Journalist Wesley Morris moderates a Special Tribeca Talks: Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival Conversations: Shooting and Scoring during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at the SVA Theater April 25, 2014, in New York City.   MICHAEL LOCCISANO/GETTY IMAGES
Journalist Wesley Morris moderates a Special Tribeca Talks: Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival Conversations: Shooting and Scoring during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at the SVA Theater April 25, 2014, in New York City.
MICHAEL LOCCISANO/GETTY IMAGES

Wesley Morris, a black journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2012 while at the Boston Globe, is joining the New York Times as a critic at large, the Times announced on Thursday. 

The Culture section of the Times came under fire last year over television critic Alessandra Stanley’s use of the term “angry black woman” to describe television series creator Shonda Rhimes.

Executive Editor Dean Baquet said then that he would “love to diversify” the Times’ contingent of 20 cultural critics, which included no African Americans and only two of color. He pledged that despite a financial crunch that resulted in layoffs, “I have an obligation to diversify the staff and I will figure out a way.”

Morris, 39, will be a critic at large in Culture and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, according to a memo Thursday from Danielle Mattoon, culture editor.

“I said yes to the job because it was a chance to do writing at the paper that had never officially been done before,” that of a critic at large, Morris messaged Journal-isms on Friday. “That will be exciting, I think. And people have been really kind about the news.”

Morris will be the first African American film critic at the Times since Elvis Mitchell quit in 2004 after A.O. Scott was promoted to lead film critic. The three critics at the time had been equal.

“Wesley comes to The Times from Grantland, where he has been a contributor since 2011 and a staff writer since January 2013, writing about film, fashion and music, and co-hosting the pop-culture podcast ‘Do You Like Prince Movies?,’ ” according to Mattoon’s memo.

“Before Grantland, Wesley spent 10 years at The Boston Globe, where he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for a body of work ‘distinguished by pinpoint prose and an easy traverse between the art house and the big-screen box office,’ according to the citation.

“Wesley’s work is electric. With an inexhaustible enthusiasm for and command of contemporary culture, he brings a fan’s heart and a critic’s mind to everything from pop stars to film directors. His is one of the most engaging and incisive voices writing about culture today, and if anyone reading this isn’t following him already, start Googling; you’re in for a treat. ‘It’s Lear in reverse,’ he wrote of ‘Empire.’ ‘It’s also a department store of Shakespearean moral dilemmas and their consequences. Floor 1: Hamlet. Floor 2: Romeo and Juliet. Floor 3: Macbeth. The penthouse restaurant? Good evening, and welcome to Othello.’

“As a critic at large in Culture, Wesley will occupy a newly created position allowing him to write essays and criticism across multiple disciplines and to respond to cultural moments as they unfold. He’ll be joining a first-class roster of critics, many of whom have been friends and admirers for years.

” ‘Wesley writes about film, television, music, fashion and the way we live now with bracing intelligence, wit, style and heart,’ Manohla Dargis said. ‘It’s a privilege to call him my friend, and I’m delighted that I can now also call him my colleague.’

“As a contributing writer at the Magazine, Wesley will cover a range of subjects and bring his critical sensibility and ambitious thinking to bear in a variety of narrative forms, from essays to profiles. He will also be a part of the Magazine’s ongoing editorial brainstorm and an integral member of its growing roster of writers with sharp, distinctive voices.

“One final word from Tony Scott: ‘He’s like Oscar Wilde — breathtakingly funny and absolutely serious in the same breath, able to illuminate the deepest and sometimes darkest meanings of a piece of popular culture without losing sight of the fact that it’s all supposed to be fun.’ ”

In June, Stanley was reassigned to a new beat covering, in Baquet’s words, ‘the richest of the rich.’

Morris’ hiring will also add diversity to the Times magazine.

In April, after the Times hired Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won plaudits for her investigative work on racial issues at ProPublica, as a staff writer for the magazine, magazine Editor-in-Chief Jake Silverstein told Journal-isms, “Building a diverse staff of editors and writers is very important to me and to the magazine, and since I took over in May we have been trying to draw a greater variety of voices to our pages.”

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Source: The Root | RICHARD PRINCE

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