Should the Pulitzer Prize be Awarded for Questionable Ethics?
The coveted Pulitzer Prize was recently awarded to The Washington Post and The Guardian after their stories on Edward Snowden. Although the news was groundbreaking, should the controversial tactics of Snowden be awarded in such a fashion?
The highest journalistic award in the world, the Pulitzer Prize, was awarded to The Washington Post and London’s The Guardian in the most coveted area, Public Service, for stories the newspapers broke about National Security Agency documents leaked to them by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. government contractor who is now seeking asylum in Russia.
Named in honor of famous St. Louis newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who started what is now The Post-Dispatch and then moved to New York City in the 1880s and made his fortune running The New York World newspaper, the prize is awarded each year for the top news and feature stories, photojournalism and various literary entries.
According to an article in The New York Times:
“Through a series of reports that exposed the NSA’s widespread domestic surveillance program, The Post and Guardian U.S. set off an international debate on the limits of government surveillance. The papers also came under heavy criticism by the American and British governments, with lawmakers accusing them of compromising national security.”
After all, Snowden faces espionage charges in America (should he ever return to the U.S.) for willfully telling newspapers highly classified U.S. government secrets about how we collect data on countries like China and Russia, not exactly allies of the U.S.
But the questions that linger are: Should Snowden have leaked those thousands of documents to U.S. news reporters? And, should those reporters have published those secrets in order to expose the NSA’s spy tactics? Is Edward Snowden a whistleblower or a traitor? Should these newspapers earn the most coveted prize in journalism for running stories about U.S. secrets?
This is the topic for today’s blog by writers at MBU Timeline:
MOLLY CARVER, senior
public relations major
The case surrounding Edward Snowden was one of the biggest cases covered by media in 2013.
The release of the secret documents led to a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post.
I have often wondered what “National Treasure” type secrets the government may be hiding.
The leaked documents gave the entire country a good idea of what happens behind the scenes.
In my opinion, I think it is really hard to determine if Snowden is a traitor or a hero.
How is that measured?
On one side he brought to light an issue no one knew about, but then again I am sure this is one of many secrets that Americans were oblivious to.
On the other side, Snowden is now dining with the enemy.
I think that The Washington Post did what any good journalist would do, they uncovered things that needed to be uncovered.
The media is there to inform and that is exactly what they did.
My only thought is when will Nicolas Cage finally uncover the President’s Book of Secrets.
TAYLOR SCHUSTER, senior
Edward Snowden said in a statement: “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance.
“My efforts would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers, and they have my gratitude and respect for their extraordinary service to our society.”
I think although Snowden is not a member of the media, he did what any advanced reporter would do, he took the information he found that were secrets from the NSA.
The secret documents showed the government has been hiding information, and Snowden decided to do what he thought was right and release some of the information he had found.
Even though he is in big trouble with the U.S. government after releasing the information, I think it was the right thing to do.
Not only do you have to tell the truth as a writer, you have to sometimes dig deep to find those juicy secrets.
If he does come back to the United States from Russia, he will be arrested on the spot and sent to trial for what he has done.
So the big question is, “Is Edward Snowden a hero or villain?”
CHELSEA GAMMON, junior
public relations and journalism major
When the story originally broke I found it odd. It seemed other worldly to me, like a story from the Cold War or the Spanish American Revolution.
According to Glenn Greenwald, one of the original journalists at the heart of the controversial news piece, “I hope that as journalists we realize not only the importance of defending our own rights, but also those of our sources like Edward Snowden.”
Whether or not it was ethical for Snowden to release the information, my question is: Was it ethical for the reporters to publish the piece?
The United States is a democratic republic and has been since its birth in the Revolutionary War era.
It is the supreme duty of journalists to inform and educate the people about government issues and practices they may not otherwise know.
While I struggle with Snowden releasing information that could compromise national security, if the material could harm the people then they should be told.
Journalists have a treacherous job and their role is not to please, to sell or to entertain. Ultimately, their job is to inform the public at all times with all information.
I have a difficult time believing that Snowden should have leaked the information.
However, I do believe that the journalists had honest intentions to uphold the foundational truths of this country.
As a journalist, I would not have run the story but I respect the intentions of the journalists in this case.
STACEY BIERMANN, junior
public relations major and journalism minor
According to The New York Times, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, said the story was “the epitome of important reporting and the epitome of what public service in journalism is all about.”
I believe Edward Snowden did our country a favor by revealing information that otherwise would not have been known to the public.
With all the myths behind the U.S. government, to have a secret like this exposed I believe makes the public more skeptical as to what else the government is keeping from us.
STUART SLATES, senior
broadcast media major
The Story of Edward Snowden was very closely followed in 2013 by much of the world.
Snowden released thousands of U.S. government documents, which led to The Washington Post winning a Pulitzer Prize.
The stories showed what true journalism is in my opinion.
The writers took information they were given and published it, revealing government secrets to the people.
The writers deserve the award they were given because they wrote hard news that affected the people and the news was important.
CASSIE NESBIT, junior
public relations major
Security is something that could always use improvement.
U.S. government leaders thought Snowden’s story — published in The Guardian and The Post — was harmful to the U.S. security system. However, the Supreme Court justified the reporting of Snowden’s story under the First Amendment right, according to The Washington Post website.
Snowden deserves praise because he exposed news for the public’s interest.
The information pertained to “everyone who believes that the public has a role in government,” Snowden said. I agree. He was right to tell the secrets, The Post and Guardian were right to run the stories, and the Pulitzer Prize committee was right to recognize them for it.
JERASON GINES, junior
public relations major and journalism minor
I think that the Pulitzer award should go to who ever deserves it regardless of the circumstances.
If the award was given to people who played it safe and followed all of the rules, then so many candidates would never be considered.
Journalism is founded on the idea of groundbreaking news and it would be unfair to not recognize reporters with this award simply because we may not agree with Snowden’s ethics.
GLYNIS SEKARSKI, junior
communication studies major
I think Edward Snowden is a hero. He spilled some the secrets of the U. S. government, secrets it should not have been keeping from the American people.
According to The Guardian, Snowden, said in a statement, “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance.”
It takes a brave person to tell the truth. Unfortunately sometimes telling the truth could mean the end of your career.
Essentially the government was doing something wrong. When you do something wrong you need to take responsibility for your actions even if you are a country.
The United States spied on its people looking for terrorist.
The last time this happened the president was impeached.
What makes this event any different? Do we just not care anymore?
He wanted us to know of this invasion of privacy. He was protecting us from our own people.
This to me is a hero.