Star's Henneberger is Pulitzer finalist

Posted May 5, 2020

By Ren LaForme, Poynter Institute

The winners of the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes were announced in atypical fashion Monday afternoon.

Melinda Henneberger of the Kansas City Star was a finalist in the edtorial writing category.

Usually held at Columbia University in New York City, due to the coronavirus pandemic this year’s Pulitzer announcement took place in Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy’s living room and being livestreamed via YouTube.

The Pulitzers are generally regarded as the highest honor that U.S.-based journalists and organizations can receive.

Poynter President Neil Brown is a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. Brown declined to discuss last week’s board deliberations, but offered:

“The Pulitzers once again remind us that sometimes a little guy — one journalist, a small newsroom, even a curious tipster — can land a strong blow against systemic abuse, neglect or injustice in our communities. The stories we celebrate not only enlighten, but they also help us engage. An enduring theme of American journalism is that it helps move us off the sidelines, get involved, demand action. In these confusing times of crisis, it’s useful to remember that journalism is part of the democracy tool kit, and we need not feel powerless.”

Here are the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners:

Breaking News Reporting

Awarded to the staff of The (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal for coverage of hundreds of last-minute pardons from Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin


The staff of the Los Angeles Times for coverage of the Conception boat fire that killed 34 people
The staff of The Washington Post for coverage of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that occurred within hours of each other

Investigative Reporting

Awarded to Brian M. Rosenthal of The New York Times for an investigation of New York City’s taxi industry that revealed predatory loans that took advantage of vulnerable drivers


Jay Hancock and Elizabetth Lucas of Kaiser Health News for exposing predatory bill collection from the University of Virginia health system
The staff of The Wall Street Journal for an investigation of Amazon’s third-party seller system

Explanatory Reporting

Awarded to the staff of The Washington Post for a series that showed the effects of extreme temperatures on the planet


Rosanna Xia, Swetha Kannan and Terry Castleman for a series on the effects of climate change on the California coastline and the people living there
The staff of Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting for reporting on worker injuries at Amazon’s warehouses

Local Reporting

Awarded to the staff of The Baltimore Sun for reporting on a financial relationship between Baltimore’s mayor and a public hospital system that her office oversaw


The staff of The Boston Globe for a look at what socioeconomic inequities did to the city’s top high school students
The staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for an investigation of sexual abuse in the Amish and Mennonite communities

National Reporting

Two organizations won the national reporting award this year.

1.      Awarded to T. Christian Miller, Megan Rose and Robert Faturechi of ProPublica for an investigation of a series of accidents in America’s 7th Fleet

2.      Awarded to Dominic Gates, Steve Miletich, Mike Baker and Lewis Kamb of The Seattle Times for coverage that exposed design flaws in Boeing’s 737 Max


The staff of The Wall Street Journal for coverage of a California utility’s equipment neglect, which led to deadly wildfires

International Reporting

Awarded to the staff of The New York Times for a series of stories that expose Russian President Vladimir Putin’s predatory regime


The staff of The New York Times for a series of stories that exposed China’s efforts to repress Uighur Muslims
The staff of Reuters for reporting on the Hong Kong protests

Feature Writing

Awarded to Ben Taub of The New Yorker for a story on a Guantánamo Bay guard’s growing friendship with a captive who was tortured and deprived of his freedom


Nestor Ramos of The Boston Globe for a dramatic story about how climate change is reshaping Cape Cod
Ellen Barry of The New York Times for a story about an Indian “prince”
Chloé Cooper Jones writing for The Verge of a story on the man who filmed Eric Garner’s death and the New York Police Department’s apparent retaliation against the man


Awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times for a personal essay that opened the 1619 Project, which viewed America’s origins through the lens of enslaved Africans


Steve Lopez of The Los Angeles Times for columns about increasing homelessness in Los Angeles
Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post for columns about equity and fairness in the sports world


Awarded to Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times for a critique of the overhaul of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Justin Davidson of New York Magazine for architecture reviews, including a look at the development of Manhattan’s Hudson Yards
Soraya Nadia McDonald of The Undefeated for essays on theater and films about the intersection of race and art

Editorial Writing

Awarded to Jeffery Gerritt of the Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press for editorials that exposed how inmates died in a small county jail while they were awaiting trial


Melinda Henneberger of The Kansas City Star for editorials on abortion access, sexual assault and domestic violence
Jill Burcum of The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune for writing about a proposed mine and pollution in the waters of a wilderness area

Editorial Cartoons

Awarded to Barry Blitt of The New Yorker for his watercolor style and gentle caricatures of the personalities and policies that come from the Trump White House


Lalo Alcaraz, a freelancer, for commentary about local and national issues from a Latinx perspective
Matt Bors of The Nib for cartoons about the hypocrisy of the Trump presidency and the blind spots of moderate democrats
Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher, a freelancer, for cartoons about the Trump administration, international affairs and Baltimore politics

Breaking News Photography

Awarded to the photography staff of Reuters for photographs of the Hong Kong protests


Dieu Nalio Chery and Rebecca Blackwell of the Associated Press for images of lynching, murder and human rights abuses in Haiti
Tom Fox of The Dallas Morning News for coverage of a shooter outside of the Dallas Federal Building. Poynter talked to Fox after the incident last year.

Feature Photography

Awarded to Channi Anand, Mukhtar Khan and Dar Yasin of the Associated Press for images showing life in the contested Kashmir as India revoked its independence


Erin Clark of The Boston Globe for photographs of a Maine family struggling with homelessness
Mary F. Calvert, a freelancer, for The New York Times, for photographs of male sexual assault survivors in the U.S. Army

Audio Reporting

Awarded to This American Life, with Molly O’Toole of the Los Angeles Times and Emily Green, a freelancer for Vice News, for “The Out Crowd,” a look at the personal impact of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy


Nigel Poor, Earlonne Woods and Rahsaan Thomas for “Ear Hustle,” a look at life behind the bars from inmates at San Quentin State Prison
Andrew Beck Grace, Chip Brantley, Graham Smith, Nicole Beemsterboer and Robert Little of NPR for “White Lies,” a podcast about an infamous murder from the Civil Rights era

Public Service

Awarded to the Anchorage Daily News, with contributions from ProPublica, for a series on small towns in Alaska that lack police protection


The New York Times for reporting that exposed the scope of a political war on science
The Washington Post for data-driven reporting that provided insight into the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

Special Citation

The Pulitzer Prize Board awarded a special citation to Ida B. Wells, an early pioneer of investigative journalism and civil rights icon. The Board will also bequest at least $50,000 in support of Wells’ mission. More details will be announced at a later date.

Ren LaForme is Poynter’s interim managing editor and digital tools reporter. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @itsren.