Post Versus Times in Pulitzers: Can “Black Prisons” Beat “NSA Wiretapping”?

The weeks before the Pulitzer winners are announced are rife with rumors and leaks about finalists.

By: Harry Jaffe

This Pulitzer Prize season could be both a win and a loss for the Washington Post. What happens if Mark Leibovich wins for features? The Post’s star political-feature writer has just jumped ship for the New York Times. The Post gets to keep the prize but loses the writer?

The weeks before the winners are announced are rife with rumors and leaks about finalists.

Rumors aside, the Post enters this season with high hopes. It has been suffering Pulitzer envy in the heavyweight reporting categories, but this could be the Post’s year to match the Times.

The Post has at least two finalists: The investigative series that exposed and brought down lobbyist Jack Ab­ramoff —by Susan Schmidt, James Grim­aldi, and R. Jeffrey Smith— and Dana Priest’s stories on the CIA’s “black prisons” will compete in the national-reporting and public-service categories.

The Times is putting up stories by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau about the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on domestic communications without court orders.

No one is talking about the odds for fear of jinxing the outcome, which is announced early in April.

The Post’s Style section is nominating fashion critic Robin Givhan; feature writers Wil Haygood and Mark Leibovich; and film critic Ann Hornaday.

Book critic Jonathan Yardley is up for another Pulitzer for his Second Reading columns. David Finkel’s dis­patches from Yemen are in the running. The Post has also put up Eugene Robinson’s columns.

The last time the Post had a strong Pulitzer run was 2002 when Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham, and Sarah Cohen won an investigative prize and the national staff won a reporting award for covering the war on terrorism.

The Post’s usually strong photo department is submitting only Andrea Bruce’s images on the earthquake in Pakistan and India. Says photo editor Joe El­bert: “Our Katrina coverage really sucked.”