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There was no red carpet or celebrity-filled song-and-dance routine, but the Oscars of the journalism world were held Monday. And the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded top honors to The Washington Post and The Guardian for introducing the world to Edward Snowden and his trove of pilfered National Security Agency documents. The two newspapers share this year's Public Service award for their "revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency," but there's a subtle dig at The Guardian in the award's specifics.
The Washington Post, whose articles were written by national security reporter Barton Gellman, was commended for its "authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security." The Guardian, whose original coverage was helmed by Glenn Greenwald, was congratulated for "helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy."
That sounds like a polite way of noting that The Guardian's initial coverage was less careful than The Washington Post's, and that The Post corrected its errors when they became apparent. Or that there's a fine line between journalism and impassioned advocacy, and while both are important to a democratic society, Gellman (below, left) and Greenwald (center) are perhaps on different sides of that divide.
Congratulations to both newspapers for their win — and to all the other journalists rewarded for their outstanding work. The Pulitzer Prizes are all well-deserved. Still, maybe next year the Pulitzer people can at least get Neil Patrick Harris to read out the awards.