Post Wins 3 Pulitzers, Including for Abortion Coverage, Feature Writing

The Washington Post
The Washington Post won Pulitzer Prizes on May 8 for national reporting, feature writing and general nonfiction. Journalism published by The Post was also honored in five prize divisions as Pulitzer finalists.

The Washington Post won three Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including one for reporting on the consequences of changing abortion laws, and another for a series of intimate portraits illuminating the societal toll of the pandemic.

“His Name Is George Floyd,” a book written by reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, also won a Pulitzer for best general nonfiction. The biography built upon reporting for a 2020 Post series that intertwined a deeply personal biography of Floyd with an exploration of the racial inequities that shaped his life.

Journalism published by The Post was also honored in five prize divisions as Pulitzer finalists. The total of eight honorees is the largest for The Post since 2002.

The century-old Pulitzer contest, administered by Columbia University, is considered by many to be journalism’s highest honor, and all three of this year’s winning Post entries were the result of the kind of intense reporting and commitment of resources that is frequently only achievable by the nation’s largest and best-funded news organizations. The New York Times, Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, for example, each won two Pulitzers this year.

But regional news organizations were also honored – notably, the joint operation of three Alabama newspapers, which won two prizes Monday.

The most prestigious Pulitzer, the gold medal for public service, was awarded to the AP for its work documenting the siege of Mariupol during the Russian invasion of Ukraine – mostly through the eyes of two native Ukrainian correspondents, Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, who risked their lives as the last journalists in the soon-to-be-decimated city. Ukraine was also the subject of the AP’s breaking news photography prize and the New York Times’s win for international reporting.

A panel of judges awarded the Pulitzer for national reporting to The Post’s Caroline Kitchener, 31, for stories that tracked the changing landscape of abortion laws, revealed the emergence of covert abortion pill pipelines, and explored the deeply personal and complex impact on the lives of women unable to get abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Eli Saslow, 40, was awarded the Pulitzer for feature writing for stories that depicted the fissures of post-pandemic America. In one story, Saslow introduced readers to an eager teacher arriving from the Philippines only to encounter an American education system on the brink of collapse. In another, he followed a bus driver in Denver dealing with the reality of widespread homelessness and addiction. It’s the second Pulitzer for Saslow, who also won a prize for explanatory reporting in 2014.

“The real lesson to me is that the value that news organizations bring is reporting – real, deep reporting,” Washington Post Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said. “Actually talking to people. Don’t just shout about an issue. Don’t just cover it on a political level. Dive deep into issues to try to say what is really going on.”

The newsroom staff was named a finalist for the prestigious public service gold medal for a multipart series on the fentanyl crisis that traced the problem throughout the United States and Mexico. Monica Hesse was a finalist for best commentary for her columns giving voice to anger and frustration in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision. “Broken Doors,” an investigative podcast series on the dangers of no-knock warrants, was named a finalist for audio reporting. Terrence McCoy, the paper’s Rio de Janeiro bureau chief, was a finalist for explanatory reporting for his series on the Amazon rainforest’s destruction.

“I can’t think of anything that more clearly demonstrates the breadth of excellence of the newsroom,” Buzbee said of the finalists.

Cartoonist Pia Guerra is also a finalist for best illustrated reporting and commentary for several cartoons that were published in The Post’s Opinion section, which operates independently from the newsroom.

Samuels is now a staff writer at the New Yorker, and Saslow is now a writer-at-large at the New York Times. A three-time finalist for the feature writing prize, Saslow called Monday’s award a “really fortunate and wonderful bookend to a remarkably rewarding chapter of my career.”

Saslow’s winning entry explored the many ways the country had become fractured and polarized by the pandemic – visible in schools, in cities, in the economy and in mental health.

“For most people, the only way to sort of feel something for someone else’s experience is to read about it,” he said. “That’s how we build our empathy about other people’s experience in this kind of messy country we share.”

Saslow’s standard practice is to embed with his subjects for days at a time to closely observe their lives. For one story, he fixed on the tensions erupting within mass transit systems. He initially spent several days interviewing Philadelphia train conductors and poring over incident reports from across the country. Then he interviewed more than a dozen bus drivers in Denver before he decided to focus on Suna Karabay, accompanying her on her bus route.

For another story, Saslow shadowed a billionaire grappling with the morality of being so rich at a time of stark economic disparities. “I spend more time on the other side of that” divide, Saslow said. “But I think it’s really important in journalism to always try to cover everybody.”

“He doesn’t build his stories from any kind of assumption. Every sentence is a defensible piece of reporting,” said Saslow’s longtime editor, David Finkel. “He’s empathetic without being maudlin. There’s that authenticity to his work.”

In reporting their George Floyd book, which was also a finalist in the biography category, Samuels, 38, and Olorunnipa, 37, temporarily relocated to Minneapolis and Houston, and spent significant time with their subject’s family and friends. Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020, and his name became a rallying cry for racial justice. The authors also spent time with his survivors during the trial that led to the conviction of Derek Chauvin.

“It was truly the honor of our lives to take this guy who everyone was okay with reducing to an image on a wall or hashtag and showing he was flesh and blood and truly mattered to people,” Samuels said. “Not in a theoretical way – his life mattered.”

The resulting work showed a man with ambitions who believed in American ideals but faced much harsher treatment than others when he made mistakes. “It’s easy to cite all of the social science research that shows racial injustices and, yes, racial disparities come from somewhere,” Olorunnipa said. “It’s harder to get people to feel a sense of responsibility about righting some of the wrongs in our society.”

When the pair began reporting, books about racial injustice were heralded as must-reads. By the time “His Name Is George Floyd” was released, some of those same books were being banned in schools and libraries across the country. Samuels said he hopes the Pulitzer recognition “helps to extend and revivify this necessary conversation that we need to have in this country, about the roots of our problems. To have this award support that kind of work means so much.”

On the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe in June, Kitchener witnessed chaos and tears inside a Houston abortion clinic.

She had reported from the same clinic a year earlier, after her then-editor, the late Neema Roshania Patel, encouraged her to cover the impact of a new six-week abortion ban in Texas when both were working for the Lily, a Post offshoot aimed at millennial women.

Kitchener’s reporting around the Texas ban convinced her that Roe would inevitably fall, an unfathomable outcome for so many Americans. Few other major news organizations had a single reporter devoted to the issue. “It was so baked into our culture, the idea that Roe is the law of the land,” she said.

She proposed covering abortion full time, moving to The Post’s politics staff last year. “She could see that it wasn’t only a story about the law or the courts or about the politics of abortion,” said her editor, senior national investigations editor Peter Wallsten. “It was a story about the direct impact on people’s lives.”

By the time the Supreme Court’s majority opinion to overturn Roe leaked in May, Kitchener was already deeply embedded in the issue, having broken news about the direction of the antiabortion cause and written deeply personal stories about the women affected by the Texas ban – and becoming adept at navigating an incredibly polarizing issue. One story about a Texas teenager who sought an abortion but is now the mother of twins was widely shared and praised on social media by both liberal commentators and conservative senators.

“So often people don’t hear anything about why the other side feels differently,” Kitchener said. “In my work, I really strive to sit in that complication in between two sides, in the gray areas and the nuance.”

Full list of 2023 Pulitzer winners:

Public Service: Associated Press

Breaking News Reporting: Staff of the Los Angeles Times

Investigative Reporting: Staff of the Wall Street Journal

Explanatory Reporting: Caitlin Dickerson of the Atlantic

Local Reporting: John Archibald, Ashley Remkus, Ramsey Archibald and Challen Stephens of, Birmingham; and Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today, Ridgeland, Miss.

National Reporting: Caroline Kitchener of The Washington Post

International Reporting: Staff of the New York Times

Feature Writing: Eli Saslow of The Washington Post

Commentary: Kyle Whitmire of, Birmingham

Criticism: Andrea Long Chu of New York magazine

Editorial Writing: Nancy Ancrum, Amy Driscoll, Luisa Yanez, Isadora Rangel and Lauren Costantino of the Miami Herald

Illustrated Reporting and Commentary: Mona Chalabi, contributor, the New York Times

Breaking News Photography: Photography staff of the Associated Press

Feature Photography: Christina House of the Los Angeles Times

Audio Reporting: Staff of Gimlet Media, notably Connie Walker

Fiction: “Demon Copperhead,” Barbara Kingsolver; “Trust,” Hernan Diaz

Drama: “English,” Sanaz Toossi

History: “Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power,” Jefferson Cowie

Biography: “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” Beverly Gage

Memoir or Autobiography: “Stay True,” Hua Hsu

Poetry: “Then the War: And Selected Poems 2007-2020,” Carl Phillips

General Nonfiction: “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa

Music: “Omar,” Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels