Reporting on the biggest story of the last year, or perhaps even the last decade, may not be honored by the Pulitzer Prize Board. According to past Board members, journalists, and watchdogs, the 19-member Board will undoubtedly have an “intense discussion” about whether reporting on the information leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden ought to be recognized.
Next month, the trustees who oversee America’s most distinguished journalistic award could face their toughest decision in at least four decades.
The issue before the Pulitzer Prize Board: Does it honor reporting by The Washington Post and The Guardian based on stolen government documents that are arguably detrimental to the national security of the United States, and which were provided by a man who many see as a traitor? Or, does it pass over what is widely viewed as the single most significant story of the year — if not the decade — for the sake of playing it safe?
Politico goes on to note that The New York Times won the Pulitzer Public Service award in 1972 for its reporting on Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers.
While the Board may want to not appear political, it would be astonishing if some of the most significant reporting of the last decade were not seriously considered for recognition. Giving reporting on the Snowden leaks a pass would make the the Board look like a group of people that values good standing with officials over the value of good journalism that is in the public interest.
Reporting on the information leaked by Snowden has allowed the public to know about the scale of mass global surveillance and has prompted an overdue debate in the U.S. as well as abroad on the state of civil liberties in the Internet age. It would be a shame if this reporting, which was certainly in the public interest, is not seriously considered for recognition by the Pulitzer Prize Board because of some comparatively trivial political concerns.
The winners of this year's Pulitzer Prizes will be announced at 3p.m. ET on April 14.
Editor's note: A earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that The New York Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for its reporting on the Pentagon Papers.