Magazine article Editor & Publisher

PULITZER 2006: In 2005, Few Were Asleep at 'The Post'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

PULITZER 2006: In 2005, Few Were Asleep at 'The Post'

Article excerpt

It was appropriate that The Washington Post chose the rooftop of the legendary Hay-Adams Hotel for its Pulitzer Prize celebration, held just hours after the paper led this year's winners with four prizes -- the largest one-year haul in the newspaper's history. Appropriate because the downtown Hay-Adams' roof overlooks the White House, a bit of symbolism for the paper's winning entries.

"The view from the roof gives us the heart and vision to stand our ground," Post blogger Marc Fisher wrote on the paper's Web site on April 18.

The newspaper's take included prizes in investigative reporting, to James V. Grimaldi, Susan Schmidt, and R. Jeffrey Fisher; beat reporting, to Dana Priest; explanatory reporting, to David Finkel; and criticism, to Robin Givhan. "I am pleased the Pulitzer board handed out so many awards for accountability reporting," says Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. "Being a watchdog on the government is a major part of our job. It is important for American journalism to be doing this."

Each of the winning entries offered a clear example of holding government accountable, uncovering inside stories of official policy, and taking a good dose of heat for the effort -- none more clearly than Priest's CIA "black sites" disclosures, which drew complaints from both supporters of the administration, for revealing the hidden operation, and opponents, who criticized Priest for not releasing the secret prisons' exact locations. Even President Bush weighed in during a meeting with Downie in which he sought to have the story held. "My mission was simple, to describe how the U.S. is fighting the war on terrorism," Priest tells E&P. "In 20 years of reporting at the paper, no story has attracted this kind of attention and controversy."

The Jack Abramoff coverage that took the investigative prize did not simply expose the illegal actions of one lobbyist and his related connections -- it also launched a new effort by Congress to spot suspicious activities by its members.

"I think a lot of journalists wrote it off as one bad apple," Grimaldi says of the Post's first days of Abramoff coverage. "Len Downie had the foresight to see that it was a potential story with a lot of impact. …

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