NYT Pulitzer Winner: ‘We All Watch the Most Emailed List’

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From left: Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prize, Richard Oppel, co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, and NYT staff writer Amy Harmon

This morning, we spoke with New York Times staff writer Amy Harmon, who just won a Pulitzer-prize for her series, The DNA Age. She helped us settle the dispute about whether Times reporters check the most-emailed list: “We all watch the most emailed list,” she told us.

Case closed, although she provided a different take than the ‘NYT reporters are complete ego-maniacs’ explanation offered by Nick Denton. “As a reporter, you want all the response you can get,” Harmon said. Makes sense, but we imagine the truth is somewhere in between the two.

Harmon, who is part of the paper’s “How We Live” group, began writing the series in 2006 and credited the Times brass with allowing her the flexibility to report the stories. “I’m lucky to have as much leeway as I did to pursue a particular theme,” she said. “But the Times wants reporters to do that.” One would imagine winning the Pulitzer will only help her case.

But did she ever think the series would lead to journalism’s most-coveted award?

“It would be not true to say it never crossed my mind,” Harmon honestly admitted. “At some point, [my editors] came to me and said, ‘You’re getting an interesting body of work together.'”

Unlike her first Pulitzer — won as part of a group that reported on race relations in America — this award stemmed from a project she designed, pitched and continues to write. The genesis of the project came in 2006 when she wrote a memo outlining what would become the DNA Age series. “The How We Live group had recently been formed,” Harmon said. “We would have mini-beats to look at how people lived and I came up with this subject.” See folks, winning a Pulitzer is easy.