Monday, April 24, 2006

Poo-litzer Prize Winning Journalism

I was in the backyard scooping up piles of dog-poop. One particularly sloppy and malodorous pile reminded me of something I wanted to write about, the Pulitzer Prize. Now, I haven't been alone in my skepticism of these types of awards, but I have done my share.

Let's set aside the recent arrest of Bilal Hussein, the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who snapped the Haifa Street photos and displayed an uncanny ability to move freely amidst insurgent groups in Iraq.

Let us instead focus on one of the recent Pulitzer Prize winners, like Dana Priest of the Washington Post. She won the prize in the category of "Beat Reporting":

For a distinguished example of beat reporting characterized by sustained and knowledgeable coverage of a particular subject or activity, in print or in print and online, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Dana Priest of The Washington Post for her persistent, painstaking reports on secret "black site" prisons and other controversial features of the government's counterterrorism campaign.

Well, the revelation of "secret 'black site' prisons" as a "feature of the government's counterterrorism campaign" sounds quite ominous and downright Orwellian. Unfortunately, Dana Priest's reporting was a little too Orwellian. Just like the totalitarian societies in Orwell's novels, Dana Priest's secret 'black site' prisons appear to be fictional places.

The European Parliament's probe and a similar one by the continent's leading human rights watchdog are looking into whether U.S. intelligence agents interrogated al-Qaida suspects at secret prisons in eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights through Europe.

But so far investigators have not identified any human rights violations, despite more than 50 hours of testimony by human rights activists and individuals who claimed to have been abducted by U.S. intelligence agents, de Vries said.

"We've heard all kinds of allegations, impressions; we've heard also refutations. It's up to your committee to weigh if they are true. It does not appear to be proven beyond reasonable doubt," he said. "There has not been, to my knowledge, evidence that these illegal renditions have taken place."

Now, it turns out that Dana Priest's source for the news has been arrested and some are speculating that the entire subject could've have been an internal CIA sting to smoke anti-american treasonous operatives out of their little spider holes at the agency.

Let me summarize with this reminder; a so-called journalist was awarded $10,000 and a Pulitzer Prize for regurgitating a story that could be a complete fabrication. In defense of the Pulitzer, there is no question that concocting a believable story about fictional events happening to fictional people can be "painstaking", but hardly worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, at least in my mind.

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