FROM LEFT: Dana Priest, Anne Hull and Roy Harris, Jr.

Inside Media: Pulitzer's Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism

January 10, 2009

Guests: Dana Priest, Anne Hull and Roy Harris, Jr.

By Newseum staff

The story of the deplorable conditions that returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan faced at Walter Reed Army Medical Center made national news and captured the coveted Pulitzer Public Service Award for The Washington Post.

Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull described how they uncovered the story in a discussion that included Roy Harris Jr., author of "Pulitzer’s Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism." 

Priest and Hull’s styles complemented each other in the course of reporting and writing their series.  

"It’s not just an investigative story about government, it’s about people’s lives," Priest said. "I can spend forever with a government person, trying to get them to tell me the secrets of what they do at work, and Anne does the same thing with people and gets them to describe their own lives." 

The two reporters spent months learning firsthand about the wounded soldiers’ living quarters and troubles dealing with bureaucracy.  

"We wanted to see everything with our own eyes. We wanted an eyewitness account of every allegation," Hull said. "You need to see what’s happening." 

Harris explained that the public service award often goes to journalism that not only reveals problems but also effects change.  

"In the Walter Reed case, clearly the exposure of these … cataclysmic problems at this institution, the fact that it was finally exposed was a huge public service," he said, "and at the end of that, there were actually reforms made and people ousted from their positions." 

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