It’s a more complicated question than it appears, and who better than Jay Rosen to make complicated questions of journalism easier to understand?
Officially, the prize went to The Washington Post and to the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. for reporting on the National Security Agency’s lawbreaking and overreaching, based on documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.
But this case illustrates how the process of news gathering, editing, and publishing/distribution has changed in the Internet age. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is that the Pulitzer committee hasn’t caught up yet. The good news, and we definitely want to call it that, is that those agencies that want to suppress the publication of material whose publication is in the public interest, such as the British agents who smashed the Guardian’s MacBook Pros despite knowing that Snowden’s cache of records was alive and well elsewhere on the planet and in cyberspace, haven’t caught up yet, either.
As Rosen puts it, a writer or a paper/news outlet doesn’t publish a story anymore; a system does. And if the Pulitzer committee has trouble wrapping its head around that, that’s OK. I and many other former and current journalists I know would trade a Pulitzer in a heartbeat for the chance to be able to continue performing public-service journalism at least one step ahead of those entities who would unconstitutionally and illegally suppress it.
UPDATE, 4/16: Who really won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism? It damn sure wasn’t ABC News.