Evaluating print and broadcast news in the San Francisco Bay Area from A to F.

Ellsberg proposes Pulitzer prize for sources

Daniel Ellsberg (photo by
Randy Lyman, SPJ)


SAN FRANCISCO, March 17 -- "There should be a Pulitzer Prize for sources," Daniel Ellsberg told the Society of Professional Journalists last night. To keep it "a modest proposal," Ellsberg said it would not be retroactive, but quipped that he'd be happy to see "a statuette called the Daniel."

The Vietnam-era Pentagon analyst was accepting the Norwin S. Yoffie Career Achievement Award from the SPJ's Northern California Chapter for his lifelong commitment to combating government secrecy. "It's hard for a known source to get a career achievement award," he noted. "Their first achievement tends to end their career."

In 1971 Mr. Ellsberg leaked the "Pentagon Papers," which revealed that the government was lying to the public about the real situation in Vietnam.

Mr. Ellsberg pointed out that whistle-blowing sources make investigative journalism possible, but are not considered part of the journalism process. He said he'd never been invited to speak at a journalism school as a source. He added, "I think a lot of journalists look on their sources like police officers look at their informants ... as very dubious characters."

Mr. Ellsberg regaled the crowd with readings from transcripts of Nixon Administration White House tapes released just two years ago. Noting that he'd heard the actual tapes many times, Mr. Ellsberg did convincing impressions of both President Nixon and aide Henry Kissinger.

Mr. Ellsberg cited Katharine Gunn as someone who deserves an award for her courage. British intelligence translator Gunn faced prosecution for leaking information about an alleged U.S. spying operation against U.N. Security Council members during the run-up to the Iraq war.

Journalists need more such sources willing to breach government security, Mr. Ellsberg said. "You have to go back to the Alien and Sedition Acts in the time of President John Adams for a time freedom of information was under greater threat" in this country than it is now.

Mr. Ellsberg received a standing ovation from the audience at the SPJ-NORCAL's 19th annual James Madison Freedom of Information Awards Dinner.

Veteran Bay Area journalist Randy Alfred serves on SPJ-NorCal's Freedom of Information committee.

What do you think? Discuss it in The Coffeehouse.

WEEKLY UPDATES

More...
A project of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University, Grade the News is affiliated with the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University and KTEH, public television in Silicon Valley.

Monitoring the Bay Area's most popular news media:

Contra Costa Times

Knight Ridder

San Francisco Chronicle

Hearst

San Jose Mercury News

Knight Ridder

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KRON, San Francisco

KRON, San Francisco

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)

 

Bay Area media advocates:

Media Alliance
Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at SFSU
Maynard Institute
Youth Media Council
Project Censored
New California Media
Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter
National Writers Union Bay Area chapter

Site highlights

THE GROWTH OF FREE NEWSPAPERS

The three-part series follows the rise of three Bay Area handouts:
• Part 1: At free dailies, advertisers sometimes call the shots
• Part 2: Free daily papers: more local but often superficial
• Part 3: Free papers' growth threatens traditional news
• See also: SF Examiner and Independent agree to end payola restaurant reviews
• And: The free tabloid that wasn't: East Bay's aborted Daily Flash

FATE OF KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

Lou Alexander started a firestorm with his original guest commentary predicting the company would be sold. Several other experts on newspapers have weighed in:
Newspapers can't cut their way back into Wall Street investors' hearts, by Stephen R. Lacy; Alexander responds
Humbler profits won't encourage buyouts, by John Morton; Alexander responds
Newspapers can't maintain monopoly profits because they've lost their monopolies, by Philip Meyer
Knight Ridder in grave jeopardy, by Lou Alexander...

KQED-FM AUDIO PERSPECTIVES BY JOHN MCMANUS

Leakers and plumbers: There's no difference between a good leak and a bad leak? Journalists need a shield law. 11/22/05
Unintended consequences: How Craigslist and similar services are sucking revenue from faltering newspapers. 9/13/05
Is CPB irrelevant? As Congress moves to cut public broadcasting funds, has CPB become obsolete in the modern marketplace. 6/26/05
The paradox of news: There's more news available and its cheaper than ever before, but fewer young people are interested. 5/12/05

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most recent updatesHow the Bay Area's most popular media stack up.Talk about Bay Area journalism in our on-line discussion forum. A printable news scorecard you can use at home or in school. Raves and rants aimed at the local media. What would you do if you were the editor? Upcoming happenings and calls for public action. Let 'em know! Contact a local newsroom.Codes of ethics, local media advocates and journalism tools. Tip us off about the local media, or tell us how we're doing.Oops.A comprehensive list of past GTN exclusives.