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December 8, 2009

Blogger with city, Times ties earns $30k grant

With funding derived from the work of Andy Warhol and directed by his will, a grant writers' foundation has made a major award to Greg Cook, a journalist who began his work in and around Gloucester and the Daily Times and remains hooked by the city.

 The award is for Cook's Internet arts newspaper, The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. The 2009 awards, totalling $710,000 to 26 writers, by The Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program were announced last week. Cook's award was $30,000.

"It's more than a Pulitzer, but less than a MacArthur," he said, referring to prizes for journalism and genius, in a telephone interview from his home office in Malden.

He is the only active blogger to win an award this year from the Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital.

At its core, the journal that earned Cook the reward is an enterprise whose spotlight is aimed eccentrically at the highlights, lowlights, interesting experiments and shenanigans of the arts world of New England. Surrounding the hard stuff is some sophisticated and very funny fluff.

At his core, Cook is a reporter; he describes his work as homage to the honorable legacy of the "press," an archaic term from which today's media has emerged.

He cites his newspaper training, first as a copyboy at the Salem News, then as a reporter at the Daily News of Newburyport and the Gloucester Daily Times for providing him the speed writing skill to meet deadlines.

Cook notes that he puts out "a few hundred words a day" from his survey of arts' papers and materials and original reporting; he often adds material in the middle of the day as stories change.

To Cook, journalism still is an honorable calling.

On the other hand, the creator of the site with the self-mockingly pretentious, yet keenly descriptive name — The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research — is pictured on the "about" page of his gregcookland Web site as a demented imitation of Boris Karloff's mummy from the 1932 movie classic.

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