Carolina alumni Pulitzer winners spark national conversations

Six UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media graduates were awarded 2020 Pulitzer Prizes for their work on projects that sparked national conversations and recognition.

Nikole Hannah-Jones portait
10/10/17/NYC,, NY/ Nicole Hannah-Jones portrait after winning MacArthur grant(Credit: James Estrin/ The New York Times)30212179A

Six UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media graduates were awarded 2020 Pulitzer Prizes for their work on projects that sparked national conversations and recognition.

This year, six UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media graduates were awarded 2020 Pulitzer Prizes for their work on projects that sparked national conversations and recognition. Winners represent the breadth of experience and talent of the University’s alumni community and the continuing impact of UNC Hussman on the journalism industry.

Four of this year’s alumni winners worked on The Washington Post series 2C: Beyond the LimitOpens in new window and won the 2020 Pulitzer in Explanatory ReportingOpens in new window. Named after the two-degree Celsius temperature rise, the series used articles, photos, videos and graphics to document the effect of climate warming on locations across the globe. The UNC-Chapel Hill alumni who were recognized for their contributions to 2C: Beyond the Limit are:

  • Brady Dennis ’00, a national reporter for The Washington Post, who was one of the reporters covering the series;
  • Monica Ulmanu ’10 (M.A.), a graphics editor at The Washington Post, who edited graphics for the series;
  • Carolyn Van Houten ’14, a staff photojournalist at The Washington Post, who provided photography for the project, traveling to locations including Angola, Uruguay and Colorado; and
  • Madison Walls ’18, a news designer for The Washington Post, who was recognized for her design work on the collaborative project. Walls graduated from UNC Hussman just two years ago with a focus on interactive design.

The fifth UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus who received a 2020 Pulitzer Prize is Nancy Donaldson Gauss ’05, associate managing editor at The New York Times. Gauss leads the Times’ video team, which produced video reportsOpens in new window for the Times’ investigations on Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia. The team was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in International ReportingOpens in new window.

The sixth alumni winner of a 2020 Pulitzer Prize is former Roy H. Park Fellow Nikole Hannah-Jones ’03 (M.A.), who is a staff writer covering racial inequality for The New York Times Magazine. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize in CommentaryOpens in new window for her essay opening The 1619 ProjectOpens in new window, which she created and led. The 1619 Project was a special issue that marked the 400th anniversary of the day in August 1619 when the first enslaved Africans were brought by ship to the English colony of Virginia. The groundbreaking print and multimedia initiative reframes the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the national narrative. With Hannah-Jones as creative lead, The Times will adapt the project into a portfolioOpens in new window of films, television programming and other content across studio platforms in partnership with Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate.

Many readers may also recognize Hannah-Jones from her recent appearance on Carolina Up Close, a part of Tar Heels TogetherOpens in new window, that featured a conversation between the Pulitzer Prize winner and Carolina history professor Jim Leloudis ’77, ’89 (Ph.D.). If you missed this remarkable discussion, you can watch it nowOpens in new window to learn more about Hannah-Jones’ work on The 1619 Project, her thoughts on the current racial justice movement and the University’s 15-member Commission on History, Race and a Way ForwardOpens in new window, a commission co-chaired by Leloudis.

Hannah-Jones is also instrumental in spearheading The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative ReportingOpens in new window, a national organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color. The society — named after Ida B. Wells (1862–1931), a pioneering Black investigative journalist and an activist for women’s rights and the suffrage movement — moved to UNC HussmanOpens in new window from Harvard University in 2019.

At that time, Hannah-Jones shared her enthusiasm about moving to Carolina’s journalism school. “It’s such a place of journalistic excellence. It means so much to me. And I love that we’re moving to the South. Having a presence there — where so many Black journalists are and the people that we write about live — is critical.”

The Ida B. Wells Society also works to educate news organizations and journalists on how the inclusion of diverse voices can raise the caliber, impact and visibility of investigative journalism as a means of promoting transparency and good government.

UNC Hussman has a proud tradition with Pulitzer Prize awards, beginning with alumnus Horace Carter, who won the 1953 Pulitzer for Meritorious Public Service for his campaign against the Ku Klux Klan as the owner and operator of the Tabor City Tribune. The lobby of Carroll Hall now holds Carter’s Pulitzer, which he donated in 1990, in a museum-quality installation to inspire future generations.

“We are so proud that our alumni continue to lead national conversations. Throughout their beats and fields, they make their mark by not just covering news, but uncovering it,” said Susan King, dean of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. “That is the UNC Hussman value, and we are happy to see our students carry the lessons they learned from our excellent faculty and staff and peers into the world as alumni.”

UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media Funding Priorities

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