Barton Gellman gives address at SUNY New Paltz on democracy and national security

Barton Gellman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for The Atlantic and SUNY New Paltz’s 2022 James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professor of Journalism, shared insights from more than two decades of covering national politics in a public address for an in-person and online audience of students, faculty, staff and community members titled “Secrets, Leaks and the National Security State.”

The lively and engaging lecture went into Gellman’s prodigious career reporting on various national security issues. He especially emphasized his work pursuing the 2013 Edward Snowden leak of practices at the National Security Administration (NSA).

His account unfolded like a high-energy television procedural. Like many of the best whistleblower stories, it opened with a note from an anonymous source.

“If you’re a journalist, especially if you’ve ever covered the intelligence world, you can get a large number of emails and phone calls from people who are not always experts,” he said. “I have a high bar for verifying anonymous sources.”

After that initial contact, Gellman and Snowden communicated for months that year via several forms of encryption technology, and led to a series of award-winning award-winning Washington Post reports.

His account had value for aspiring student journalists, as he shared some tools and best practices for maintaining safety and data security when reporting on people and institutions in power.

“I have been forced to adopt the tradecraft of a spy in order to do what I do,” he said.

As Ottaway Visiting Professor, Gellman is sharing expertise with students in “The Literature of Fact,” an upper-level seminar for digital media & journalism majors. The course focuses on creative non-fiction writing in the style of a narrative magazine feature.

Before arriving at The Atlantic, Gellman spent 21 years at The Washington Post, where he was part of the team that won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of 9/11. He continued to earn recognition for reporting on the Bush administration and the War on Terror, before leading the team that won a 2014 Pulitzer for coverage of the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden.

More recently, Gellman has emerged as one of the nation’s leading voices covering the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the U.S. Capitol and related threats to our nation’s political order.


About the James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship 

The James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship, SUNY New Paltz’s only endowed professorship, is named for the founder of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., who was a leader of the American Press Institute and a lifelong supporter of high quality journalism in the Hudson Valley and across the globe. 

The Ottaway Visiting Professorship was established in 2000 through the generosity of James H. Ottaway Jr. ’18 HON and Mary Ottaway ’70g (Elementary Education). 

Numerous well-known journalists have preceded Gellman as Ottaway professors, including Pulitzer Prize winners, foreign correspondents, book authors, editors, investigative reporters and experts in finance, science and consumer journalism. 

More information about the Ottaway Visiting Professorship, including biographies of previous professors, can be found at