Pulitzers Awarded At The 'Taj Majal" of Journalism for Snowden Leaks Stories While TV Networks Grumble and Keep Their Distance
New York, New York: First the good news: The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was not only the best covered of its awards this year, but it recognized a series of disclosures that made many media outlets nervous, if not adversarial--the publication of NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden.
They recognized the reporting by the Guardian in England and also Bart Gellman's work in the Washington Post even as they, did not recognize the work directly of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras whose independent reporting appeared in many newspapers.
Laura and Glenn still make the news world nervous because a) they are outspoken, b) not always under the control and discipline of traditional editors and have a 3) respectful and acknowledged positive relationship with their source as if that is a high crime or misdemeanor. It is significant that they were recognized by the Polk awards, but not the Pulitzer.
In some higher circles, their source, Ed Snowden, is still considered a traitor or worse.
The Pulitzer Prize is the big enchildada in the media word announced in a formal ceremony at the Pulitzer room in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism on New York's Morningside Heights. The journalists who win these prizes are recognized for life as "Pulitzer Prize Winners" a sign that they reached the highest heights in the profession. It's a ticket to raises and more recognition.
I once was once told by a former dean of the same "J School" --where I taught as an adjunct -- that they considered themselves the "Taj Mahal" of American Journalism. I didn't have the heart to remind her that the original Taj was built as a tomb.
Almost as significant as the prizes to stories emanating from a whistle blower, was the award to an investigative report into coal miners who were denied black lung disease benefits by one of the new not-for-profit media organizations, the Center for Public Integrity. A CPI reporter, Chris Hamby, won that one.
The ink on his award was not even dry before ABC News, a network I used to work for, muscled in with a high profile media claim that since they aired a story based on Hamby's reporting, they deserved the Pulitzer too. The embarrassingly loud demand for credit by outgoing ABC President Ben Sherwood was gently, and then indignantly rebuffed by the Center's Director, Ben Buzenberg,
According to Talking Points Memo, Buzenberg said: " I don't take well to being bullied by anybody or threatened by anybody. We just stuck to the facts."
Buzenberg explained that the Pulitzer committee did not award the prize for broadcast pieces and told ABC to cease its demands.
"The Center is prepared to show in great detail how little ABC's Brian Ross and Matt Mosk understood about even the most fundamental concepts and key facts and how they repeatedly turned to Chris to advise them or, in some instances, to do their work for them," he wrote in the letter.'
He noted in a letter to ABC, " Though you have framed the issue as the Center seeking to diminish ABC's contributions, the reality is quite the opposite: ABC is seeking to take credit for a large body of work that it did not produce. These are the facts, as confirmed under the very strict Pulitzer Prize rules by the Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler again just yesterday."
Having worked at ABC for eight years and written about the experience in my book. The More You Watch, The Less You Know, I could identify with Buzenberg's taking umbrage at network arrogance and bullying.
In my experience, TV executives see their shops as if they are military units under the control of the men who control the control rooms. (After reports leave the control room, they pass through the even more Orwellian sounding "Master Control.") These news chiefs would not do well on school report cards evaluating their ability to "work well with others."