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The Washington Post and the Guardian/US were both awarded one of journalism's top honors on Monday—the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service— for their separate but related reporting on the NSA's widespread surveillance documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill from the Guardian and the Washington Post's Barton Gellman sent shock waves across the globe for their reporting on the leaks—eliciting responses from citizens and governments alike and spurring a new era of backlash against government intrusion.
“The stories that came out of this completely changed the agenda on the discussion on privacy and the NSA,” David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, said prior to the announcement. “There’s an enormous public good in that, and it’s yet to be proven at all that somehow did great damage to national security.”
The Guardian team broke the first report on the NSA's collection of Verizon phone records and Gellman, with help from Poitras, reported on the wide-ranging surveillance program known as "PRISM."
Following the announcement, many hailed the selection as a vindication of the actions of both the journalists and the whistleblower, each of whom have been threatened for their work and are forced to remain in exile for fear of persecution by the U.S. government.
"I can't imagine a more appropriate choice for a Pulitzer Prize," New York University media studies professor Mark Miller told AFP. Miller said that the winning team of reporters did what "American journalists are supposed to do, which is serve the public interest by shedding a bright light on egregious abuse of power by the government."
"The real journalistic heroes in this country tend to be the mavericks, the eccentrics, those who dare to report stories that are often dismissed derisively as 'conspiracy theory,'" Miller continued.
On Friday, Poitras and Greenwald returned to the U.S. for the first time since breaking the NSA stories to accept the prestigious George Polk Award for national security reporting.
During his acceptance speech for the George Polk award, Greenwald discussed the intimidation that both whistleblowers and journalists face.
"The only way to deal with threats," he said, "is to just do the reporting as aggressively, if not more so, then you would absent those threats."