Eight American University School of Communication students were part of the Washington Post team that won a 2022 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol.
The award recognized a massive newsroom effort by more than 75 reporters, photographers, videographers and opinion writers and featured coverage that began days before the attack through the fallout. The entry included a dozen stories, a forensic video examination, an opinion piece and a deeply reported three-part story detailing the attack and its aftermath.
The students—McKenzie Beard, Caroline Cliona Boyle, Heather MacNeil, Aneeta Mathur-Ashton, Vanessa Montalbano, Megan Ruggles, Nick Trombola, and Carley Welch—had the opportunity to work on this project because they were part of the American University-Washington Post practicum program. This is the second Pulitzer Prize win practicum students have played a role in, with then-student Derek Hawkins earning a byline in the 2016 Pulitzer Prize on fatal police shooting.
"This experience gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'll always be grateful for the skills I developed and the reporting chops I gathered while working under the tutelage of some of the best reporters and editors in the industry," said Montalbano.
The practicum, launched in 2013, lets graduate students spend as long as a year in an elective class that takes them inside the investigative team of one of the nation's leading newspapers. Students work under the supervision of Pulitzer Prize-winning, embedded SOC faculty member John Sullivan. Partnered with Post journalists, the students learn how to research, write, and fact-check major investigative stories and have dedicated desks in the newsroom. Predictably, acceptance to the class is competitive.
Shortly after the January 6th attack, the students, led by Sullivan and Washington Post editors, began tracking the attackers, their affiliations and the criminal charges against them, an effort they continue to this day. They also gathered and tracked information on candidates that supported Trump's assertion that he won the election and tracked if election officials faced threats for verifying the election results.
“Being a part of such an astounding team while working on “The Attack” has simultaneously inspired and challenged me while affirming my dreams of becoming an investigative reporter,” said Beard. “The guidance of John Sullivan and the reporters at the Washington Post have changed my life. Now, it’s time to get to work.”