“It’s an affirmation of what Arianna said: ‘You can do great journalism from any platform,’” said Wood, who started his career in 1970. “The [strategies] I used then were exactly the ones I used in this story — to think about your subject, to ask good questions, to be a continuously good listener and to go deep.”
Wood — who joined the Huffington Post last year and is now its senior military correspondent — won the Pulitzer for national reporting for his “Beyond the Battlefield” series, which looks at the challenges severely wounded soldiers face when returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
In a phone interview, Wood talked about his series, which he spent eight months working on.
“I have never been given eight months to do a story because most of the time, we’re too busy,” said Wood, who previously worked for Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Newhouse News Service and The Baltimore Sun. “It’s hard to carve out that much time, and to Arianna’s credit, she said, ‘No, I think this is important, let’s do it.’ ”
Throughout the years, Wood had seen a lot of wounded soldiers escorted from the battlefield. He would watch as they were flown away in helicopters and always wondered: What happens to them? He didn’t just want to know whether they survived or died; he wanted to know what day-to-day life is like for those who do survive.
Wood said he was nervous at first about interviewing wounded soldiers. Some of the soldiers he talked with had lost arms and/or legs. Others had been hit by explosives and have severe burns on their faces. He was surprised to learn that most of the soldiers wanted to share their stories, and viewed their wounds as physical evidence of the sacrifices they made to serve their country.
“When I started off, I thought, ‘First off nobody is going to want to talk to me.’ When you see wounded people or disabled people, it’s always a little bit awkward. I never knew whether to say ‘too bad,’ or how to acknowledge them,” said Wood, who interviewed about two-and-a-half dozen soldiers for the popular series. “I was thinking, it’s going to be really hard to get those wounded people to talk to me, but nothing could have been further from the truth.”
Wood said he would typically start off by asking the soldiers to catalog their wounds. From there, he would dig deeper to find out how their physical and emotional scars have affected them and their families. There was so much to write about that at times he had trouble deciding what information and details to leave out. It helped, he said, to frequently talk with his editor, Tim O’Brien.
When Wood found out today that he had won journalism’s biggest prize, he was surprised.
“I’m so overwhelmed by this,” he said. “There was no thought in my mind that I would win a Pulitzer. It was total pandemonium in the newsroom when we found out. People were very proud.”