The Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post were jointly honoured today with this year’s Pulitzer Prize for public service, recognising the lead roles they took in exposing the sweeping electronic surveillance methods adopted by the National Security Agency based on documents provided by fugitive Edward Snowden.
While few in the industry doubted that the impact of the NSA stories qualified them for recognition in this year’s awards, the most prestigious in America for journalism and the arts, there had been some suggestion they might be passed over because they were based on leaks from somebody branded a traitor by the US government.
The Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded to Donna Tartt for her latest novel, The Goldfinch, a sweeping narrative about a young boy who survives a terror attack in a New York art museum only to make off with a priceless master that comes to take over his young life. The novel is still dominating the best-seller lists.
Among the journalism categories, the Boston Globe was meanwhile given a prize by the Columbia University-based panel for breaking news coverage, based on its in-depth and “empathetic” reporting of the Boston Marathon bombing last April and the manhunt that followed it.
The winning NSA stories were written by Barton Gellman at the Washington Post and by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewan MacAskill for the Guardian. Though headquartered in London, the British paper qualified because the material was showcased in particular on its American website, Guardian USA.
“I think it’s amazing news,” Ms Poitras said in New York after the prizes were announced. “It’s a testament to Snowden’s courage, a vindication of his courage and his desire to let the public know what the government is doing,”
The Boston Globe learned of its Pulitzer on the eve of the first anniversary of the marathon bombing that left three people dead and injured many others. The newsroom reacted with a minute of silence.