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Five Pulitzer Prize Winners You Should Know

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on April 10th – and this year’s crop does not disappoint. For those unfamiliar with the awards, the Pulitzer Prize recognizes annual achievements in journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. If you haven’t had the time to check out this year’s winners, below is an outline of the 5 most notable winners (whose incredible work you should definitely check out post-finals).

Who: David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post

Category: National Reporting

What: His exposure of Donald Trump’s fabricated charitable donations over the past 20 years. The Washington Post’s inability to verify more than none of the 400+ supposed donations made by the President point to a larger problem of truth telling.

Fahrenthold’s investigation into the promised made by the President, and whether he kept those promises, shed a light on the importance of truth telling in an era of speculation.

Why it matters: The honesty with which Fahrenthold unveiled the Post’s investigation points to the importance of journalist-to-audience transparency. Many articles included copies of the copious handwritten notes taken by Fahrenthold, or direct images of data he collected: all aimed at showing the public exactly what they had found. In an era when speculation and commentary run rampant in the news cycle, it’s important to see journalists gathering pure facts for the public interest. 

Links: check out one of Fahrenthold’s best reports here

2. Who: Daniel Berehulak, freelance photographer

Category: Breaking News Photography

What: His heartbreaking photography documenting the unjust killings of thousands of Philippine drug dealers and users that have occurred since President Rodrigo Duterte took office. The photographs expose the brutal deaths of civilians at the hands of the Philippine police force.

Why it matters: A picture is worth a thousand words. Photographic storytelling is increasingly important, as injustice is never more mobilizing than when seen – in firsthand account – by those abroad who may be able to generate change.

Links: look at some of Berehulak’s stunning photographs here [WARNING: graphic content]

3. Who: Heather Ann Thompson

Category: History

What: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy– A historical recounting of the Attica Prison Uprising, when 1,300 prisoners protested the years of mistreatment they had endured. When officers attempted to stop the uprising, 39 people were killed and hundreds wounded – all this at the hands of the officers, none of whom were prosecuted. Thompson researched the uprising extensively for over a decade, and in her book, exposes the state-mandated injustice brought upon those prisoners.

Why it matters: U of M, baby! Thompson is a historian at the University of Michigan, and her incredible work on mass incarceration makes her a Wolverine to brag about. 

4. Who: Eric Eyre of Charleston Gazette-Mail. Charleston, WV

Category: Investigative Reporting

What: Reporting on the cover-up of large opioid shipments from prescription drug wholesalers to mom-and-pop pharmacies in small West Virginia towns – the state with the highest overdose death rate in the country. Eyre fought to have previously sealed court documents detailing the massive pill shipments released, exposing the years-long ignorance of state law demanding that orders of suspiciously large amounts of pills be reported.

Why it matters: This is a first-time win for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and a nod to the importance of small-town investigative journalism. Eyre’s reporting reminds us that reporting with the public interest of a small county in mind can often be just as powerful as big-time reporting on country-wide issues.

Links: check out one of Eyre’s best reports here

5. Who: Colson Whitehead

Category: Fiction

What: The Underground Railroad – The story of a young slave trying to escape the terror of captivity by way of a literal Railroad – secret train tracks that stretch beneath the land underground. The historical truth of this narrative is then cut with fantastical drama, paying homage to the cruelty of the pre-Civil War era.

Why it matters: Despite its pre-Civil War setting, the narrative lends itself skillfully to the contemporary feelings of being deemed an alien in modern America. Although set in the mid 19th century, The Underground Railroad sheds light on the eerie similarities between that shameful era of American history and the present. 

There are many more prize winners and finalists worth checking out, as this article covers only a few. In a world where virtuous journalism and research is becoming increasingly important, we must continue to commend some of the amazing work that is being done!


Photos courtesy of  The Washington Post, Pulitzer Organization, The New York Times, Gazette Mail, and Indie Wire