A group of journalists has launched a campaign to convince the Pulitzer Prize administrators at Columbia University to bestow the prestigious award posthumously to Ed Kennedy, a former Associated Press reporter who reported exclusively on Germany's World War II surrender.
Kennedy defied the military's instructions to withhold the story until a public announcement was made, and was vilified by his peers and fired by his employer.
The journalist group leading the Ed Kennedy Pulitzer Project nominated Kennedy for the prize in 2013, but failed in its attempt to win the award. The Pulitzer rules don't prohibit resubmissions, and the group is asking the award administrators to reconsider its decision this year.
"The Pulitzer Prize Board's work is confidential. Special awards, if any, are announced in April along with the regular prizes," said Mike Pride, administrator of Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
The project was inspired by the 2012 publication of Kennedy's book, Ed Kennedy's War, from Louisiana State University Press. The book chronicles Kennedy's witnessing and reporting of the signing ceremony at a former schoolhouse in Reims, France, in which the Germans surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.
Kennedy, who was AP's Paris correspondent at the time, and 16 other reporters were hastily invited to the signing ceremony and were told that the story was under military embargo. Kennedy ignored the instructions and broke the story a day ahead of the competition, instantly triggering the ire of the military and competing journalists. He was soon fired by the AP.
The AP issued its apology in 2012 for firing Kennedy and called his report "perhaps the biggest scoop in its history."
"It was a terrible day for the AP. It was handled in the worst possible way," AP's then-CEO Tom Curley told the news agency.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman had agreed to keep the news under wraps for a day to allow Russian dictator Josef Stalin to stage a second surrender ceremony in Berlin, the AP report said.
The project's leaders say Kennedy's reporting amounted to defying the military's political censorship, an effort "to bend the press to its will on matters having nothing to do with saving lives."
Curley, who co-wrote an introduction to Ed Kennedy's War, told the AP that the correspondent "did everything just right."
"Once the war is over, you can't hold back information like that," Curley said. "The world needed to know."
According to the AP's account, the journalists gathered at the ceremony were told the news would be held for only a few hours. But the embargo was extended for 36 hours. "The absurdity of attempting to bottle up news of such magnitude was too apparent," Kennedy wrote later.
"The historical record shows that his career was ruined and his reputation destroyed because he did the right thing by reporting the news that the entire world had every right to know," the Ed Kennedy Pulitzer Project wrote in its letter to Columbia University.
Kennedy, who sought public vindication from the AP, died in a traffic accident in 1963.
The journalists spearheading the Ed Kennedy Pulitzer Project include: Eric Brazil, former USA TODAY Los Angeles bureau chief; Ray A. March, former editor of Modoc Independent News; Frank McCulloch, former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times; Ward Bushee, retired San Francisco Chronicle editor; and Warren Lerude, former Reno newspapers' publisher.