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Snowden’s revenge: Journalists win Pulitzers for his NSA leaks

June 9, 2013: This photo provided by The Guardian newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden. (AP)

June 9, 2013: This photo provided by The Guardian newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden. (AP)


Ready for Hillary? The media sure are, but she’s not cooperating

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Snowden’s revenge: Journalists win Pulitzers for his NSA leaks

Ed Snowden, the fugitive from justice now hiding out in Moscow, didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize today. But his handiwork was rewarded in dramatic fashion.

The chief beneficiary of Snowden’s NSA leaks, liberal columnist Glenn Greenwald, shared the most prestigious of the prizes, the public service award, although it was issued in the name of the Guardian (which published his work along with that of colleagues Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill). Bart Gellman of the Washington Post, who also dealt extensively with Snowden, was given a Pulitzer for public service as well.

There had been some pregame chatter that the judges, operating under the auspices of Columbia University, might bypass the Guardian and the Post out of distaste for Snowden and his role in the leaks. But that was never a likely scenario.

Some conservative critics are sure to denounce the awarding of the Pulitzers because Snowden broke the law to furnish the journalists with hundreds of thousands of pages of classified material on the NSA’s massive surveillance program. Many are no fans of Greenwald, viewing him as a left-wing activist on national security issues, although in this case he functioned as a reporter and the accuracy of his work was not seriously challenged.

Snowden has managed to have it both ways in this debate: portraying himself as a truth-telling champion of civil liberties while avoiding the consequences of his actions by fleeing the country. Some big-name Republicans have called him a traitor.

But if the Pulitzer standard is breaking the most important and newsworthy stories of 2013, there is little question that those leaks utterly transformed the global debate over surveillance, and prompted President Obama to propose new restrictions on the way the NSA operates in pursuit of terrorists.

Whatever one thinks of Snowden, journalists often receive leaks from questionable characters as a way of getting their hands on solid information. The papers based in London and Washington were doing what news organizations do best, exposing what was being done in the name of the American people, even when that embarrassed the administration, as it surely did when it came to listening in on calls by Germany’s Angela Merkel and other foreign leaders.

We don’t know whether the FBI’s Mark Felt acted from truly public-spirited motives when he gave Bob Woodward secret information on Watergate, leading to a Pulitizer for the Post. And for more than three decades, the man dubbed Deep Throat remained a secret source.

Snowden, however, outed himself soon after Greenwald (a frequent critic of the establishment media) began publishing his scoops. So the debate over today’s Pulitzers is very much a debate over the former NSA contractor. But it did not stop the awards to two newspapers that did the difficult work of translating those complicated documents into groundbreaking exclusives.

In other awards, the Boston Globe won for its aggressive coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Post won a second prize for Eli Saslow’s reporting on poverty in America. One non-traditional organization, the Center for Public Integrity, won a Pulitzer for a year-long probe of how doctors and lawyers worked against coal miners afflicted with black lung disease.

The New York Times, which often dominates the prizes, did not do so this year, but captured two awards for photography.

Ready for Hillary? The media sure are, but she’s not cooperating

“For reasons both personal and strategic, Hillary Clinton, potential Democratic 2016 standard-bearer, has largely resisted the tug of electoral politics — and likely won’t hit the trail for Democratic candidates until the heat of election season this fall.”

Gasp! Not until the fall??

Yes, apparently she’s first got to flog her book, which could make her truckloads of money:

“Sources close to the former first lady say she’s likely to campaign in some capacity for Democrats in the run-up to the election, when they believe her involvement would pack the most punch. Her main focus in recent months has been on finishing her latest book about her time as secretary of state, which is due out June 10. A lengthy book tour is expected to follow, marking an intense period leading up to the midterms that could provide clues to Clinton’s thinking about another national campaign.”

Hillary would hardly be the first candidate to use a book to pave the way for her campaign. And in her case, defending her tenure as secretary of State is especially important, since that record will be coming under sustained attack.

But as Politico acknowledges, getting into the campaign trenches early will invite partisan attacks and muddy Hillary’s image—even though local Democrats would love to have her. And as a consolation prize, Bill Clinton is hitting the trail on behalf of the family enterprise.

A more useful piece on how Hillary operates surfaced in the Washington Post, which examined her coziness with a corporate giant:

“On a trip to Moscow early in her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton played the role of international saleswoman, pressing Russian government officials to sign a multibillion-dollar deal to buy dozens of aircraft from Boeing.

“A month later, Clinton was in China, where she jubilantly announced that the aerospace giant would be writing a generous check to help resuscitate floundering U.S. efforts to host a pavilion at the upcoming World’s Fair.”

And what a coincidence! “In 2010, two months after Boeing won its $3.7 billion Russia deal, the company announced a $900,000 contribution to the William J. Clinton Foundation intended to rebuild schools in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.”

Now this is defensible on its face: Hillary’s job as America’s top diplomat was to help companies abroad, and aid to Haiti is a worthy cause.

But it’s no accident that a Boeing lobbyist just co-hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary. And the story underscores how the Clinton Foundation, renamed to include Hillary, has overlapping relationships with lots of potential 2016 donors.

Ready for Hillary certainly seems ready. Its website features a big picture of Clinton with the quote: “Let me say this, hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime.”

Hypothetically speaking.

We should aggressively report on this hypothetical candidate—but stop suggesting that she run on our schedule.

Pulling the plug on comments

Many news organizations struggle with abusive comments from readers--and one of them has had enough.

The Chicago Sun-Times has temporarily cut off online commenting, with Managing Editor Craig Newman explaining:

“The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas. But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.

In fact, the general tone and demeanor is one of the chief criticisms we hear in regard to the usability and quality of our websites and articles. Not only have we heard your criticisms, but we often find ourselves as frustrated as our readers are with the tone and quality of commentary on our pages.”

It’s a situation where a minority ruins it for everyone else, but hiring staff to vet the comments can be expensive. 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.