Industry watchers were not surprised when the Washington Post and the Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their coverage of the National Security Agency’s massive global surveillance operations. The prizes—the most prestigious in US journalism—came ten months after the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald published his first story on the NSA’s activities based on documents furnished by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
The Post’s coverage, led by Barton Gellman, was “marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security,” the Pulitzer board wrote in awarding the prize. Among the paper’s scoops were a look at the US intelligence community’s “black budget,” the NSA’s role in overseas drone warfare, and the agency’s ability to track the locations of mobile phones.
But not everyone is a fan of the Post and Guardian today, especially Representative Pete King, a New York Republican and former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“Awarding the Pulitzer to Snowden enablers is a disgrace,” King tweeted moments after the prizes were announced at Columbia University in New York and the champagne corks were popped off in the Post’s newsroom. Posties also celebrated Eli Saslow, who won the explanatory reporting prize for his series on Americans who try to survive on food stamps.
A spokesman for King did not respond to requests for elaboration on King’s media criticism, but his feelings about Snowden are public record. In January, when the New York Times editorial board called for Snowden, currently living in exile in Russia, to receive a pardon for his whistleblowing, King called Snowden “a traitor or defector” and labeled the Times an “accomplice.”
Or Perhaps King is just grumbling because the Post and the Guardian beat out his hometown newspaper, Newsday, which was a finalist for the public-service prize for its reporting on concealed misconduct by police officers on Long Island.
The Post and Guardian don’t need to feel special for a high-ranking member of Congress calling them disgraces. King has made the same reaction to previous Pulitzer winners. In 2012, after the Associated Press won the investigative reporting award for uncovering the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims, King called the prize an “absolute disgrace.”
But King should note that shouting “disgrace” in all directions is no way to win a criticism Pulitzer. This year’s winner, Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron, was singled out for her ability to “consistently stimulate and surprise.” King’s one-trick media nagging is fairly predictable by comparison.