The presentation was followed by a brief panel discussion, moderated by Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point” and a former Nieman Fellow. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

The presentation was followed by a brief panel discussion, moderated by Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point” and a former Nieman Fellow. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

A largely visual artist, Poitras chose to illustrate her acceptance with clips from “Citizenfour.” These focused on how Snowden reached out to her because of her previous documentary work, how she partnered with Greenwald and others, and finally how government forces in Europe and the United States have attempted to squelch their work. Her goals, she explained, are twofold. Using “visual journalism” to document how this nation has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, she has sought “to create a primary document — to record history — and then to try to bridge the gap, combine what we know with what we feel.”

“We’ve entered a moral vacuum in the post-9/11 era,” said Poitras, citing not only the widespread NSA surveillance but also the detainments of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo and other abrogations of civil liberties. With her work, she is fulfilling a responsibility “to respond to that moral vacuum,” she said. “To say something.”