Pulitzer Rep Tells Judicial Watch It ‘Does Not Qualify As A News Site’

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Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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Judicial Watch has been kicked out of the Pulitzer Prize contest, although the non-profit government watchdog has broken key stories this year in the Hillary Clinton email scandal and the controversy over the Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya.

“Does the Pulitzer Prize have one standard for liberal non-profits that engage in journalism and a different one for conservative non-profits that also engage in journalism?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton asked Pulitzer Prize Administrator Mike Pride in a March 14, 2016, email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Pride declined a request for comment from TheDCNF, saying “thank you for your query, but we do not comment publicly on the Pulitzer Prize process.”

Judicial Watch submitted three entries for the contest, but was told in a March 11 email from Pride that “the main problem with your entries in the Pulitzer Prize competition is that the rules require that entrants practice journalism based on the highest journalistic principles. Like a great many advocacy sites, Judicial Watch does not qualify as a news site under this definition.” (RELATED: Judicial Watch names Clinton aides to be deposed)

Fitton responded, saying “your suggestion that Judicial Watch fails to ‘practice journalism based on the highest journalistic principles’ is an unfounded smear. I also do not know what you mean by ‘advocacy.’ Is there any doubt about the liberal philosophy or ‘advocacy’ of prior winners Inside Climate News, the Center for Public Integrity, or ProPublica? Many other prior winners are prime examples of ‘advocacy’ journalism, as well.”

Pride told Fitton his group’s entries were also rejected because “none of your three entries followed our rules for submission.” Fitton claimed Pride’s email was the first Judicial Watch had been told of “technical deficiencies” in its entries.

“It seems like objections to our entries are being thrown up against a wall in the hopes that some may stick,” Fitton said.

The controversy highlights a major shift in investigative journalism sparked by the Internet. Non-profit educational foundations are increasingly becoming homes for investigative reporting, because it is more costly and time-consuming than daily journalism. (RELATED: Judicial Watch could be Hillary’s worst nightmare)

The Internet also gives many more investigative journalists across the ideological spectrum quick access to significant readership, without having to be hired by traditional newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post.

Pro Publica, which may be the most well-known of the investigative foundations, was launched in 2007 as a 501(C)(3) educational foundation by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger.

The foundation now describes its mission as exposing “abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.”

Judicial Watch specializes in investigations based on the Freedom of Information Act litigation and most recently was granted discovery in two cases related to Clinton and the email and Benghazi scandals.

Fitton also noted that Judicial Watch employs investigative journalists Micah Morrison and Irene Garcia, who between them have previously been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize six times either individually or as team members. Morrison was formerly with The Wall Street Journal, while Garcia is a veteran of the Los Angeles Times.

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