David Leeson

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David Leeson (born October 18, 1957, in Abilene, Texas) was a staff photographer for The Dallas Morning News. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2004, together with Cheryl Diaz Meyer, for coverage of the Iraq War. He also received the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award, the National Headliner Award, and a regional Emmy Award in 2004 for his work as executive producer and photographer for the WFAA-TV documentary "War Stories."[1][2]

Before his 2004 win, Leeson had been a finalist for the Pulitzer three times — twice individually and once as member of a team — in feature photography (1986), explanatory journalism (1990, as part of the newspaper staff), and spot news photography (1995).[3]

Photojournalism career[edit]

Leeson is a 1978 graduate of Abilene Christian University, where he received a degree in journalism and mass communication.[4] While still in college, he was on the staff of the Abilene Reporter-News, where he began in 1977 and stayed until 1982. He left Abilene for New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was on the staff of The Times-Picayune from 1982 to 1984.[5]

Since joining the staff of The Dallas Morning News in 1984, Leeson has covered local and regional news and issues, such as homelessness and natural disasters; national stories on death row inmates across the United States; international conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Sudan, Angola, Kuwait and Iraq in the first and second Gulf wars; earthquakes in Turkey; and apartheid in South Africa.[4] His 1985 series on homelessness earned him a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, an honor he received again in 1994 for his coverage of the civil war in Angola.[6] The year 1985 also saw his first Pulitzer nomination, for coverage of apartheid in South Africa; he returned twice to that nation, the last time in 1994, when he recorded the historic event of South Africa's first non-racial presidential elections.[3][6]

While photographing protesters during the buildup to the ousting of Manuel Noriega in 1988, Leeson was wounded when a shotgun pellet entered his cheek, chipping his tooth and sending him to a Panama City emergency room.[7]

Leeson was a finalist for the Pulitzer a second time, in 1994, for a photograph of a family fleeing floodwaters in southeast Texas,[8] a picture that also won him a Texas Headliner Award.[9]

In 2008, Leeson decided to accept a buy-out offer and leave The Dallas Morning News, as part of an A. H. Belo Corporation cost-cutting measure involving buyouts of more than 400 journalists.[10] He planned to continue in freelance photojournalism and documentary film work.

Unattributed photos[edit]

While Leeson's work is well known within the journalism community, he has endured a number of cases of credit for his Iraq photos being given to others, following his loaning of a CD of 200 full-resolution photos to the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division for one-time use in a yearbook for the soldiers. He has written about the incident in a public blog, stating that although he included copyright symbols with each photo, placed a README file on the CD explaining that the images were for one-time use, and explained to the public affairs officer that the images should be guarded closely to prevent plagiarism, someone made several copies and distributed them. In many cases, the soldiers appear to have been unaware that Leeson never intended for copies to be made of the CD, as more than one has written to him asking for a replacement copy after losing their disc.[11]

Subsequently, numerous incidents have occurred in which soldiers, photographers, or others have passed off Leeson's work as their own, either on photography sites, blogs, or print periodicals.

Personal data[edit]

Leeson has been married since April 17, 2000, to former Dallas Morning News photographer Kim Ritzenthaler, with whom he has two children.[4][12] He also has three children from a previous marriage, which ended in 1998.[13][full citation needed][14][full citation needed]


  1. ^ ACU press release."Pulitzer Prize-winning alumnus David Leeson wins Murrow, Headliner awards," Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine July 19, 2004. Retrieved August 6, 2007.
  2. ^ David Leeson, profile at LinkedIn. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Jay DeFoore. "Leeson, Diaz Meyer Of DMN And LAT's Cole Win Photo Pulitzers," Photo District News Online, April 5, 2004. Retrieved August 6, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Text of H.R. No. 1520, resolution in the Texas House of Representatives honoring Leeson, adopted May 16, 2005. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  5. ^ David Leeson biography at The Dallas Morning News official site. Retrieved August 7, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Breaking News Photography: Biography, from pulitzer.org. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  7. ^ Associated Press. "Riot at Panama hospital: Workers demand paychecks from Noriega Regime," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 16, 1988, page A1.
  8. ^ Rick Hampson, Associated Press. "Journalism Pulitzer Prizes announced: Coverage of Rwanda, natural disaster, and life in the inner city earned top honors," The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 1995, page A2.
  9. ^ "Veteran Chronicle editor, 3 staffers win Headliners awards," Houston Chronicle, October 1, 1995, page 40.
  10. ^ David Walker. "Leeson to leave Dallas Morning News," Archived 2008-09-12 at the Wayback Machine Photo District News, September 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  11. ^ David Leeson. "Behind the scenes of image theft", The Creative Alchemist, December 5, 2005. Retrieved August 7, 2007.
  12. ^ Ancestry.com. Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
  13. ^ Ancestry.com. Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Texas. Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997. Texas: Texas Department of State Health Services. Microfiche.
  14. ^ Ancestry.com. Texas Divorce Index, 1968-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Divorce Index, 1968-2002. Texas, USA: Texas Department of State Health Services.

External links[edit]