The bureaucratic jujitsu and policy questions are important context in this profile, not the heart of it. Are critics looking for more length? Or just a different story? Don’t get me wrong, criticism is valuable, and we obviously do a lot of second-guessing ourselves. But I think the criticisms of “Dasani” don’t really hold water.

To say that, “Dasani became the prism through which many New York Times readers view homelessness, poverty, income inequality,” for instance, recasts the story into something other than the profile that it was.

Of course no one 11-year-old “can turn into the vehicle for such complex and difficult issues” as homelessness and poverty. Of course the story will be “incomplete.” How many 11-year-olds would the story have had to include to become a vehicle for all those issues, and when the story was “complete,” what would it look like?

Was Dasani’s young life worth all that trouble? Of course it was. And that’s the point that the Times implied and left for us to intuit: So are those of the other 22,000 homeless kids the Times didn’t write about.

Too bad the Pulitzer board didn’t agree.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.