Inside Media: The Most Prestigious Pulitzer

November 29, 2008

Guests: Roy Harris and Jeff Leen

By the Newseum staff

When Pulitzer Prizes for journalism are awarded each year, the most coveted is the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal, which is awarded to newspapers for public service.  One winning newspaper’s editor described it as "not only a Pulitzer, but the Pulitzer."

Roy Harris, author of "Pulitzer’s Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism," and Jeff Leen, who heads the investigations unit of The Washington Post, discussed the award.

In the past ten years, the Post has won the public service award three times and has been a finalist five times for stories that include those on the treatment of veterans at Walter Reed Hospital, the farm subsidies system and the government’s war on terrorism.

Leen, who has won the award both as a reporter and as an editor, said the process of deciding whether and how to follow a story involves some intuition.

"I launch an investigation when a story idea gives me a certain feeling," he said. "It’s that feeling that propels you to do it.  It’s almost like you have to do it, because you feel like it’s so important."

Newsroom budget constraints may threaten newspapers’ ability to engage in major projects, which can take up to 12 or 18 months to complete and accumulate boxes of documents and piles of reporters’ notebooks.

"That’s the danger for the future," Harris said.

"Inside Media," produced by the Newseum and held in the Knight TV Studio, is open to the public. Seating is on a space-available basis.

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