The 2006 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced Monday at Columbia University in New York City, and among the winners were the New Orleans Times-Picayune for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the two reporters from the New York Times who broke the story in December of President George W. Bush’s terrorist surveillance program.
“Awarded to the Staff of The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, for its courageous and aggressive coverage of Hurricane Katrina, overcoming desperate conditions facing the city and the newspaper” was the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting. The Times-Picayune, reluctant to evacuate even as floodwaters rose, worked in their New Orleans offices the day of the hurricane, and even after evacuating and without presses, continued to publish online. Its Web forums became a central place for displaced residents to connect with each other and provide up to the minute local information on one of the worst natural disasters in American history.
The jurors awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting “to James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times for their carefully sourced stories on secret domestic eavesdropping that stirred a national debate on the boundary line between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberty.” While the Times sat on the story for over a year and ultimately edited it due to national security concerns, many called the revelation of the program’s existence a threat to national security. President Bush himself called its publication “a shameful act.” But privacy and civil liberties advocates argued that the program and a corresponding culture of secrecy within the Bush administration were eroding the Constitutional rights of all Americans. The debate still continues today.
The complete list of winners is available from the Pulitzer Prizes web site.