Placeholder while loading article actions The Washington Post received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service on Monday for its coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising on the U.S. Capitol and its aftermath. The award,
“It was a landmark event in American history and democracy,” said Washington Post editor Sally Buzbee. She called it the Post’s “mission and our absolute sacred trust” to not only cover the crisis thoroughly, but also to find ways to get its reporting and analysis “to as wide an audience as possible.”
“I am extremely delighted and very honored that the full breadth and scope of the Post’s coverage has been recognized,” she added, including the visual presentation that helped make the information particularly vivid and understandable for consumers.
The Pulitzers also honored Post reporters as finalists in three other categories. Darryl Fears and other Washington Post national staff are finalists in the national reporting category for a series of stories on environmental justice. Ann Telnaes is a finalist in the Illustrated Reporting and Commentary category, formerly known as Editorial Cartooning. And Hannah Dreier and Andrew Ba Tran are investigative reporting finalists for a series of stories about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency let down survivors of a natural disaster.
The New York Times won three Pulitzers on Monday — for domestic reporting, international reporting and criticism — and was named a runner-up in the breaking news category for its reporting on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
And five Getty Images photographers – Win McNamee, Drew Angerer, Spencer Platt, Samuel Corum and Jon Cherry – also won the Pulitzer for News Photography for their coverage of the Capitol attack.
The Pulitzer Prize jury also awarded a special citation honoring Ukrainian journalists, “for their courage, endurance and commitment to providing truthful reporting during Vladimir Putin’s ruthless invasion of their country and his war propaganda in Russia”.
The Pulitzers Gold Medal Award for Public Service is considered the most prestigious of the more than a dozen Pulitzers for Journalism awarded each year. The Post has already won the public service award five times – first in 1973 for its coverage of the Watergate investigation and most recently in 2014, an award it shared with The Guardian for revelations about the program. National Security Agency global surveillance.
Read the Washington Post’s 2022 Pulitzer Prize-winning work for public service
This year, The Post was recognized for a nearly year-long collection of coverage that included breaking news stories, investigative reports, video reconstructions and an op-ed published the night of January 6 calling for impeachment. of President Donald Trump for his “refusal to accept his election defeat and his relentless incitement of his supporters” who attacked the Capitol that day. A centerpiece of the coverage was a three-part investigative series of 38,000 words, “The Attack,” published in late October, intended to provide the definitive account of the strengths and failures that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection, the tumultuous events of the day, and the subsequent efforts of Trump’s allies to diminish attack and promote the false narrative of a stolen election.
Martin Baron, who served as the Post’s editor for eight years before retiring in February 2021, called it “journalistic teamwork at its best.”
“The skills of each service have been deployed. And I couldn’t be happier that he is now recognized with journalism’s highest honour,” he said by email. “It has been a privilege to be part of such a remarkable editorial staff, which has rightly continued to investigate who and what brought the United States to such a precarious point in its history.”
The Post’s cover file he submitted for review dated back three days before the attack. On Jan. 3, national political reporter Amy Gardner reported on a phone call Trump had with the Georgian secretary of state, urging him to “find” enough additional votes to swing the state into his column — an attempt shocking to overturn the electoral process which in many ways foreshadowed what would happen on Capitol Hill.
The morning of January 6, 2021 began with the local Washington Post news crew fanning out across Washington to cover a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally. The team – bolstered by covering months of unrest during the 2020 racial justice protests as well as the crackdown on protesters and the aggressive mopping up of Lafayette Square this summer – were offered body armor and prepared to tense encounters with protesters, Metro editor Mike Semel said. .
But shortly after 1 p.m., reporters reported to Semel: The crowd that had cheered Trump during his speech at the Ellipse had moved to the Capitol, where Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory, and breaking down barricades.
It quickly became clear that an unprecedented – and terrifying – event was unfolding before these reporters. But “no one ran away from it,” Semel said. “There was bear gas being sprayed, they were looking for reporters to spit and curse at. It was not a pleasant scene, and everyone ran towards her.
The Washington Post’s main account of the day unflinchingly called what happened an “attempted coup.” A continuously updated live blog covering the chaos carried 38 bylines that day. The Post broke a digital readership record on January 6 for the number of readers visiting the website at one time.
A few days later, DC crime reporter Peter Hermann recounted how city police were left to fight off the mob at the West Terrace entrance. The Post’s “visual forensics” team created an instant video reconstruction of the chaos inside the Capitol. The Post also ran stories chronicling the life and fatal shooting of a rioter and detailing how close the violent mob grew to Vice President Mike Pence.
But in the spring, it became clear that Congress would not create a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened, as it did after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Matea Gold, now the Post’s national editor , remembers writing a note to colleagues saying it would be “a loss to the country” if there were no official accounts.
So the Post launched a months-long investigative project in which 75 newsroom reporters combed through thousands of pages of official documents, interviewed hundreds of sources, and reviewed countless videos and publications about the social networks. The result was October’s three-part series, which included audio, video, and extensive footnotes.
“This story is about much more than what happened in the halls of the Capitol that day,” Gold said. It was “a growing effort to cast doubt on our system of democracy. It’s a story that takes all of our resources to tell.
Journalists working on the three-part series uncovered revealing reports until the final moments before it was published, editor Steven Ginsberg said. “The more we learned, the more we understood how violent and dangerous it was,” he said. “It’s just essential that people understand that and not look away, and appreciate what happened that day.”
Several editors acknowledged that the Post was exceptionally well placed to follow the story. While every other national news agency covered the insurgency, The Post – whose slogan is “Democracy Dies in Darkness” – also has a large reporting staff dedicated to covering the district and surrounding region. , including local events of national significance, contributing to a global newsroom. with resources and personnel few others can match.
But “there’s a difference between being well positioned and doing it well,” said senior editor Cameron Barr, who ran the newsroom as acting editor before Buzbee’s appointment in May 2021. “We took up the challenge that was thrown at us, which was to cover this coup attempt with everything we had.
More than a year after the attack, the country remains deeply polarized over what happened on January 6 and whether it posed a serious threat to democracy. Extremists used it as a rallying cry, and conservative media and a number of Republican politicians downplayed the attack.
The lack of consensus “simply underscores the importance of the role we play as journalists and how essential it was for us to tell the story in the deepest and most authoritative way possible,” Gold said. .
And while people may argue about the significance of Jan. 6, “there is no substitute for testifying,” Semel said. Rioters beat officers with flagpoles, pierced Capitol windows and tried to break down doors to stop the transfer of power.
“We witnessed it with the words of journalists, the photographs of photographers, the videos of videographers,” Semel said. “You can interpret that however you want, but we’ve seen what we’ve seen.”