The Washington Post and the New York Times were among several news outlets that were awarded Pulitzer Prizes on Monday for their coverage last year, honouring journalism that covered topics from the attack on the U.S. Capitol to fatal traffic stops.
The very local connection is that a man with deep Mount, Scartaglin roots is Washington Post photographer, Bill O’Leary.
Bill’s Pivotal Role
Bill O’Leary played a pivotal role as ‘The Post’ scooped the 2022 Pulitzer Gold Medal, the Pulitzer Prize for public service, American journalism’s highest honor.
The Pulitzer Prize came The Washington Post’s way for its coverage of the January 6th 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and its aftermath – and Bill O’Leary’s photographs of the madness of the day appeared on the front page of the paper’s prize winning coverage.
American Journalism’s Highest Honour
The prize, considered American journalism’s highest honor, recognizes the work of more than 100 journalists across The Post’s newsroom, many of whom contributed reporting from the Capitol grounds that day as well as others who investigated the security failures that contributed to the crisis, the human costs of the attack and the larger ramifications for the nation.
The Post has won the Gold Medal six times and won it most notably in 1973 for its famous Watergate coverage
Moment of Excellence
Bill O’Leary’s infamous photograph on January 6th epitomised the events of the day and, on Monday he was recognised for that moment of excellence.
Bill has been a photographer for over 40 years in America beginning his career by covering music concerts and he has the likes of Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Van Halen among his celluloid souvenirs from that part of his career.
Big Break in 1990
But it was back in1990, on January18th in Washington, D.C., that he got his big break in the newspaper business.
In his own words, he was, as an intern waiting for his first real photographic assignment.
Then, a huge story was breaking as Mayor Marion Barry was arrested for possession and use of crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI raid.
Staff at The Post
“I had been administrative staff at The Post. It’s pretty much clerical, background work. And I was anxious to get out on the street with a camera,” he told American radio producer and journalist, Arun Rath in an interview.
“An editor comes running in and says, ‘There’s a rumor that the mayor has been arrested.’ For this to be happening was a monstrous local story.”
Staff photographers were quickly dispatched to the FBI office at Buzzard’s Point to cover the developing story. Two people were left behind.
Right Place Right Time
“Just me and one of the older photographers who had been going through a divorce and had asked for light duty.”
“Their editor sent them to Barry’s house as backup in case the other photographers missed him.
Shortly after O’Leary and his colleague arrived at his home, an FBI SUV pulled up and four men exited the vehicle. One of the individuals was Mayor Marion Barry.
O’Leary raised his camera to take a picture, but an FBI agent got in his way and started to push him back.
In an Instant
“But then a competitor for Channel 4 News started running up, shouting questions at the mayor. The agent turned toward the commotion.
“At that instant, I get off this one picture — BAM!
O’Leary rushed back to the office and developed the photo in the darkroom.
“I finally start to un-wheel it from the spool, hold it up to a light box, and there it is. It’s clear, it’s sharp, it’s properly exposed, and it’s the mayor,” he says.
“First Lead Picture in The Post. It was the lead picture in the January 19 issue of The Washington Post.
“It was magic,” O’Leary says. “That was my big break.” Up Scart !
Thank you Séamus Fleming for keeping us ‘Posted.’
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