WASHINGTON – The award of the Pulitzer Prize for newspaper public service to the Washington Post and the British Guardian took no small amount of courage. It also stands as passive rebuke to the disturbing trend of establishment, or safe, journalism as practiced, particularly here.

The award required a large measure of spine because the work of the Post and the Guardian told of the widespread and illegal spying on innocent Americans by the U.S. National Security Agency.

And that, of course, depended on the work of former NSA civilian contractor Edward Snowden, now a fugitive and the guest of the Russian predator-in-chief and President Vladimir Putin.

The NSA disclosures are compared to the publication four long decades ago by the New York Times of the Pentagon Papers. These proved President Lyndon B. Johnson systematically lied to Congress about the Vietnam War.

But nothing on that hazardous scale had been published or broadcast lately. The statist reaction of the broadcast media was set last June by the figureheads of the two most powerful television news organizations. Bob Schieffer of CBS called Snowden a “narcissist.” David Gregory of NBC implied that Glenn Greenwald, who wrote about the NSA misconduct while at the Guardian, had “aided and abetted” Snowden and that Greenwald might be prosecuted as a criminal.

Schieffer claimed the NSA spying was created and overseen by “officials we have elected.” That was not the case. The NSA has been shown to be a rogue operation in many respects, which President Obama now looks like he is trying to rein in.

Greenwald responded that the establishment media here “are so in bed with the circles of political power over which they’re supposed to be acting as watchdogs that they have really become nothing more than appendages” of the regime.

The important distinction the Pulitzer authorities made is between the source of the information, Snowden, and the value of his information to the cause of open, constitutional government, and the newspapers’ solemn responsibility to unearth abuses of power.

The sad aspect of this public service award is how unusual this quality of journalism may have become as a result of the shrinkage of the ranks of the print press. It is clear that this generation of television journalists are not going to pick up the slack. Their work is pure stenography now.

All four of the dominant networks – Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC – are subject to heavy federal government oversight and they show it. All need approval from the government for their mergers, their ownership of local antenna, cable and satellite properties, and even billboard subsidiaries. None shows any interest in serious investigative reporting.

Michael Isikoff, NBC’s lead investigator, is leaving, saying “there will be fewer opportunities for my work.”

Sharyl Attkisson, an investigative reporter, told Fox News “it was easy” to quit CBS because the network showed no interest in her work on Obamacare, Benghazi and other issues important to the regime.

“There is pressure coming to bear on journalists for just doing their job in ways that have never come to bear before,” she said, adding that the restrictions on the press by the Obama administration are “aggressive” and “unprecedented.”

John Cassidy, writing about the NSA leaks in the New Yorker magazine last summer, put the journalist’s job in plain and simple terms: “To stick up for the underdog and irritate the powerful.” This year’s top Pulitzer award did that beautifully.

But don’t look to the broadcast media to do the job. Buy, or even better subscribe to, a good newspaper, like this one.