By: Jennifer Saba
New York Times correspondent Amy Harmon said she tried to ignore the rumors that her ongoing series “The DNA Age” was a Pulitzer finalist. Executive Editor Bill Keller confirmed last Friday afternoon that the rumor was fact when he told her she was not only a finalist but also a winner.
“He was walking toward my desk and smiling and I was sure that he had come to tell me that I had lost,” Harmon said. “It took a long time to sink in.”
This is Harmon’s second Pulitzer win. She was part of the team of reporters that won the 2001 prize on race in America for the New York Times. This year, Harmon, 39, won for explanatory reporting for her stories on affects of genetic information.
The other finalists in the category were The Boston Globe’s Beth Daley for her work on how global warming impacts New Englanders and the staff of The Oregonian in Portland for its reporting on microprocessors.
Harmon first hit upon the idea three years ago. While she was pregnant with her daughter, she underwent DNA tests herself. She pitched the series about how genetics are giving us a new way to understand ourselves.
Her stories covered a lot of ground, from how insurance companies might use genetics to determine coverage, to living with the knowledge of a lethal gene and employing DNA to breed dogs.
“I’m the kind of person who wants to know things,” Harmon said about her work but adds there is some information that “I would rather not know” about DNA. “It’s scary. It’s very potent and it’s going to take us a while to digest it and what to do with it.”
Harmon, who is part of a group of New York Times reporters who focus on “how we live,” exclusively writes the ongoing series.
Later this evening, Harmon along with other New York Times Pulitzer winners will have dinner with Publisher Arthur Sulzberger.
“I’m just thrilled and honored and grateful,” Harmon said about the win.