In the ‘Sphere, Pulitzer Win Not Necessarily a Good Thing

The Pulitzer Prizes handed out earlier this week have taken a somewhat predictable beating in the conservative blogosphere.

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced this week, provoking lively and thought-provoking commentary from bloggers. (If only every Blog Report could draw from such a wealth of source material.)

The most intense post-Pulitzer debate in blogland has centered around three reporters — Dana Priest of the Washington Post and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times — who won prizes for pulling back the veil on programs the Bush administration would have rather kept secret.

“To be sure, this year’s Pulitzer Prize announcement has generated quite an outrage,” wrote Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters. “Almost universally throughout the conservative blogosphere, the revelation that three of the recipients wrote stories about top-secret military information that conceivably compromised America’s War on Terror met with shock and dismay.”

Leading the charge has been an attention-grabbing comment by Bill Bennett, who declared Tuesday that the three reporters “took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it.” Instead of being punished or embarrassed or arrested, Bennett continued, the journalists “win Pulitzer Prizes.” “I don’t think what they did was worthy of an award,” said Bennett, but instead was “worthy of jail.”

Not surprisingly, Priest, Risen and Lichtblau also came in for invective from more of the usual suspects. At Powerline, Scott Johnson called the Times’ win the “Pulitzer Prize for Treason.” “I cannot wait until the Mullahs are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,” contributed Lifelike Pundits, while the One-Minute Pundit took a cheap shot at the struggling newspaper industry: “Bill Keller’s ‘truth to power’ gag suggests the beginning of a new era of brazen partisan reporting, and possibly the hacks can sustain it for a little while, as the sales and profits plummet.” McBride’s Media Matters, meantime, dismissed the Pulitzers completely, writing, “I’ve long felt that the Pulitzers are just a PC exercise in insider East Coast media elite backslapping. They are a way to make liberal media bleeding hearts feel really good about themselves.”

Going against the grain, Blue Crab Boulevard was one blogger who disagreed with the Pulitzer board’s choices in more measured tones. “I’m not too comfortable with the jailing of journalists. But I do believe the leakers themselves committed a serious crime by bypassing the proper procedures for objecting to a policy or program,” wrote Blue Crab. “[T]he Pulitzers this year displayed the media’s blatant double standard where only a leak they deemed worthy of release was a proper leak. They pontificated that Bush’s declassification of information didn’t meet any accepted standard, but cheerfully took top-secret information and decided it was their job to publish it.”

Meantime, Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory was among those striking back at Bennett and his supporters, while Media Matters took CNN newsman Wolf Blitzer to task for failing to ask Bennett about his “worthy of jail” remarks on The Situation Room yesterday.

Moving past the usual political give-and-take, we turn to Douglass Davidoff, who posted a smart comment at New Media Musings recalling the groundbreaking role the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Web site played last year “in holding the citizenry together, to the extent that was possible” following Katrina — and to Alan Mutter, who proposed creating “a two-tier system for awarding Pulitzer Prizes” at his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur.

“The first tier would include only papers headquartered in New York and Washington, the select fraternity that this year collected seven of the 15 awards for excellence in journalism,” Mutter wrote, adding that the “big boys and girls” win an undue share of the prizes because “They not only have bigger and better funded staffs than the provincial press, but they also get to cover the stories of the biggest national and international significance.”

But the meatiest post about the Pulitzers was provided by the Philadelphia Daily News’ Attytood blogger, Will Bunch, who saw the Post and Times’ large share of the awards quite differently.

“The most telling problem is this: Not a single Pulitzer was awarded this year for what we would call old-school local enterprise reporting. Not one,” Bunch wrote. “[I]f you look closer at the Pulitzers, you’ll see the sad toll that economics and job cuts have already taken on American journalism.”

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Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.