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The Guardian and Washington Post win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service (pulitzer.org)
455 points by danso on Apr 14, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

Journalism geekery: the "Public Service" award is often considered the best of the Pulitzers, partly because it is relatively equally distributed among smaller, lesser-known organizations as well as the big organizations...so it's sort of a implicit statement on how great journalism shouldn't be dependent on market size and staff resources.

So when a big organization like the Washington Post, and the Guardian US, win it, that's a strong statement. They could've just as likely been given the National or Investigative reporting awards.

(also, unlike the other prizes, there is no cash prize for the Public Service award)

The WaPo has won it before, including for Watergate and the Walter Reed investigation: http://www.pulitzer.org/bycat/Public-Service

In terms of importance, I think this was practically a given, but I've seen statements from people doubting if the Pulitzer Prize Board would have the courage to make a decision that still wouldn't sit well with certain powerful people.

Turns out they did. I'm very pleased to see that. Congratulations to the winners!

Glad to see they didn't pull a TIME magazine...

(please explain?)

Time Magazine has an annual feature called "Person of the Year", in which they devote the cover story of the issue to talking about the most influential person of the year.

There is a perception among some people that the selection process is biased away from controversial figures. Last year's Person of the Year was Pope Francis; some people thought it should have been (e.g.) Edward Snowden. He was the runner-up.

> There is a perception among some people that the selection process is biased away from controversial figures

Its's more than a perception, they've tacitly admited it. Wikipedia:

As a result of the public backlash it received from the United States for naming the Khomeini as Man of the Year in 1979, Time has shied away from using figures that are controversial in the United States due to commercial reasons. Time's Person of the Year 2001, immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks, was New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, although the stated rules of selection, the individual or group of individuals who have had the biggest effect on the year's news, made Osama bin Laden a more likely choice. The issue that declared Giuliani the Person of the Year included an article that mentioned Time's earlier decision to elect the Ayatollah Khomeini and the 1999 rejection of Hitler as "Person of the Century". The article seemed to imply that Osama bin Laden was a stronger candidate than Giuliani, as Adolf Hitler was a stronger candidate than Albert Einstein.

It's kind of sad, really. Person Of The Year should not necessarily be a positive thing - just the most important person of the year. But we're long since past that now.

Well, the phrasing "X of the year" is almost always taken to mean "best X of the year". Consider "movie of the year," "book of the year," and so on. Probably they should have called it "Most Influential person of the year" to avoid the default fallback of "Best person of the year".

Decades ago, Time had enough credibility that their awarding "Man of the Year" was seen as an influential act. I don't know if it was Khomeni, economics, or what, but Time has driven their brand into the ground far enough that they are now awarding it to "gosh I hope so" recipients like the pope, similar to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

Maybe they should rename it "Newsmaker of the year", and explicitly make it mean the person who's made the most news.

Going off-topic but IMO, I personally don't think of Hitler as more influential in changing the course of human history than Albert Einstein. The rise of fascism and Nazism, and the occurrence of WWII was a direct outcome of the results of WW I. I believe most of those events would have transpired, even if Hitler was at the helm or not.

It's a fair argument, and one that looks favourable to Einstein. As someone who did a Masters in Physics, I find that his theories were so counter-intuitive for the time that it would have taken decades or longer for them to be discovered by others without his input...

And if you attribute the existence of nuclear weapons to Einstein (a legacy he'd have been pretty unhappy about), that changed the world much more lastingly than Hitler did. Hell, it almost destroyed the world entirely. How's that for a legacy.

Not sure who still reads Time anyway. It has become such a tabloid over the years, I have no idea why any of their articles or decisions regarding the person of the year would be regarded with any kind of credibility.

As logn says, and they also named Zuckerberg as person of the year instead of Assange, in 2011. For some reason they decided that was the year they needed to celebrate Zuckerberg.

Both Zuckerberg and Assange started websites in the mid-2000s which had attracted considerable attention before 2011, but Zuckerberg spent that year gearing up for an IPO, whereas Assange spent it refusing to answer to rape charges.

Facebook's IPO didn't happen until two years later and isn't mentioned anywhere in TIME's POTY article. So I doubt that has anything to do with anything.

Meanwhile it was the year of "Collateral Murder" and the diplomatic cable leaks; it was arguably the year Wikileaks went from unknown to notorious.

Assange was at least in part resisting a possible extradition to the U.S.

More than 'in part'. It's the entire reason. He has stated he will go to Sweden to answer the (really obviously trumped-up, btw) charges if they will guarantee he won't be extradited to the US. Since the reason the Swedes want him in the first place is so they can hand him over to the Americans, obviously they have declined.

My mistake for taking 2011[1] from higher up in the thread rather than checking the magazine itself, which as you correctly point out gave Zuckerberg the award at the end of 2010; Wikileaks' peak. I still think controversy over the rape allegations at the end of the year did more harm to harm Assange's chances of nomination than damage he did to US govt interest since "the Protestor" (including specific Occupy references) won the award in 2011 and Putin a few years before. They've been pretty consistent about ignoring poll results too.

[1]Irrespective of whether you feel Assange was trying to avoid a hatchet job and rendition to the US, justice or something in between, 2011 was a bad year for him. I don't think he'd disagree.

Snowden was a finalist, they chose the Pope and made Snowden runner-up.


this was no a cop out on Time's part. Francis does have/will have a more far reaching effect than Edward Snodwen. The value of Snowden's revelation is that people can no longer just laugh about being spied on, all countries have simply been proven to do so.

The danger here is that far too many will again just laugh it off as they justify to themselves they cannot do anything about it and worse really just don't care to expend the effort.

I am genuinely interested in why you think pope Francis has far more effect. There has been many popes in the recent past, how many people even remember their names? Pope Francis is trying to change some policies which might have a larger impact, but we are yet to see that. I would argue that Snowden's revelations are more unique and had an impact similar to 9/11.

There are an awful lot of people that care passionately about what the leader of the Catholic Church - notional membership 1.16Bn - is saying whilst being pretty indifferent to the US government having the ability to intercept their communications (or unsurprised that it's the case) even once you'd explained who Snowden was and why his revelations mattered.

It's not just the US who is intercepting communications, it's at least the Five (plus) Eyes signatories[1].

Also, you can't have it both ways and say Catholics care passionately about the Pope but surveilled citizens are too jaded to care when comparing the effects of the two. How many Catholics are indifferent to the Pope, care passionately about governments surveilling their citizens?

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes#War_on_Terror_.282001...

Francis does have/will have a more far reaching effect than Edward Snodwen

How much more?

Time received a good deal of criticism for their choice for their Person of the Year. I believe Edward Snowden was winning the online polling for a while (all of it?), but the POTY is ultimately an editorial decision not a poll.

Not sure where you got that. He wasn't even close. Neither was pope Francis.


A large number of votes were removed from the poll under dubious circumstances.

Time named Pope Francis person of the year and Edward Snowden runner up.

Interesting to see that the runner up - Newsday - was selected for using digital tools to expose shootings, beatings and other concealed misconduct by some Long Island police officers. This highlights the increasingly complimentary role of digital tools and traditional reporting.

Anyone know what kind of digital tools they used?

Anyone know of other digital tools journalists/the press use to investigate/uncover content?

Data journalism geek here: All sorts of tools, but really, Excel and Access are adequate enough to be game-changers...this is because data has no standardized form when you get to local jurisdictions.

Jeremy Singer-Vine, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, was named a Pulitzer finalist for National Reporting this year (http://www.pulitzer.org/finalists/2014?):

> John Emshwiller and Jeremy Singer-Vine of The Wall Street Journal - For their reports and searchable database on the nation’s often overlooked factories and research centers that once produced nuclear weapons and now pose contamination risks.

HNers may remember some of Jeremy's stuff recently making the front page, including:

Reverse Engineering xkcd's Frequency: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7290868

Txtbirds: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4763147

Excel and Access are adequate enough to be game-changers

Without doubting your point here, do you think access to data is driving the underlying ability to leverage these tools? Or is it just people have now started to look harder at the problems with an analytic toolkit in mind?

I think access to data is key. One of the hardest challenges is dealing -- in an empirical manner -- with paper documents, or anything that doesn't come in a spreadsheet...which, until relatively recently, was the norm of information distribution.

But I think we (as a society) are just beginning to make use of data, in terms of analysis and general computational thinking. To go back to the domain of journalism...Aron Pilhofer, who heads the interactive news team at the New York Times, said that in "one day...we can teach you the skills that if mastered would allow you to do 80 percent of all the computer-assisted reporting that has ever been done" (http://knight.stanford.edu/life-fellow/2012/times-editor-say...)...I think this is still the case.

As an example, you don't have to go back much further than last year's Public Service Pulitzer...probably my favorite winner in modern times: http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2013-Public-Service

The reporters took a sensational story (off-duty cops being caught on YouTube egregiously breaking the speed limit) and opted to do an empirical analysis. But of course, what they were trying to find -- cops who broke the law by speeding -- was inherently non-existent, in terms of public records (because it is the cops who determine whether the law is broken). So instead, the reporters requested toll booth records, which recorded the passing through of each cop car. Taking distance divided by time, they were able to prove so convincingly how egregious the abuse was that Florida police stations pretty much rolled over and immediately repented.

Besides whatever database they used to hold the data, the analysis here is literally elementary level. This is not to say that the reporters' had it easy (they still had to do all the footwork, interviews, confrontations, and fact-checking, among other things), but it just goes to show you how many important stories are out there, in every jurisdiction, that only need someone who cares enough to do some counting and arithmetic. I kind of love the Public Service awards because of how they recognize these relatively non-sexy, but incredibly important stories done by determined and clever journalists.

...while Edward Snowden, the source of all the information they published, is being hunted down and prosecuted.


Reporting what was discovered and obtaining such information are separate actions that deserve their own consequences. It doesn't automatically make it right nor does it automatically make it wrong.

This is great news and well deserved. I hope that the price strongly motivates those in charge at either news company to press on with their coverage.

So I guess Glenn Greenwald is officially a journalist.

Greenwald isn't named in the award announcement. He'll still be listed as a blogger in the traditional press.

The awards are for breaking the Snowden secret surveilance revelations.

The full list of winners[0] and runners-up[1] is available on pulitzer.org.

[0] http://www.pulitzer.org/node/8501

[1] http://www.pulitzer.org/finalists/2014

No love for Der Spiegel?

Pulitzers are US only. Technically, The Guardian US (and not UK) won.

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