Washingtonian's Shane Harris Wins Ford Prize for National Defense Reporting

Twenty-fourth annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prizes among the industry's most prestigious

By: Sommer Mathis

Congratulations are in order to Washingtonian's own Shane Harris, who has been awarded the coveted Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on Defense. 

The award recognizes journalists "whose high standards for accuracy and substance help foster a better public understanding of National Defense," and comes with a handsome $5,000 prize. The Washingtonian staff looks forward to helping Harris spend some of that cash at the next staff happy hour.

In all seriousness, this is a big award and an even bigger deal for Harris, who says he's "humbled" to be in the same company as some of those who've been honored with the award in the past, including National Journal's James Kitfield and the Washington Post's Greg Jaffe. As Washingtonian editor Garrett M. Graff put it in a staff announcement this afternoon, the Ford Prize "is, for all intents and purposes, the Pulitzer of defense reporting."

Shane won for his body of work in 2010, four articles—two written for National Journal and two for Washingtonian: "Hacking the Bad Guys," about the US's early forays into the deployment of cyberweapons, and "Own the Sky," which traces the decade-long saga behind the US military's quest to develop a new refueling tanker.

The judges wrote in their decision, "the body of work submitted by Mr. Harris showcased some of the most important cross-cutting challenges of our times - often writing about issues with which the nation is still coming to grips: His story on the laws of war raised important questions about standards of warfare in an age of new technological capabilities. The judges noted that his article anticipated issues that are today being raised in the conflict in Libya. In Hacking the Bad Guys, he highlighted America's struggle to cope with a new type of warfare that will impact the nation's security as well as its economic competitiveness. His gripping tale of waste and delay highlighted a decade's long struggle to purchase a new generation fuel tanker, noting that 'today's tanker pilots are flying airplanes first flown by their grandfathers and the pilots who will fly the new generation of tanker haven't been born yet.'

"The judges were particularly impressed by Mr. Harris's ability to illuminate complex policy issues while maintaining a fair and balanced approach on topics that are often highly polarized."

Steven Thomma, senior White House correspondent for McClatchy, won the Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency.

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