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Three Alums Win Pulitzer Prizes

Photographers Tyler Hicks, Jessica Rinaldi, reporter Kimbriell Kelly

Photographing tragedy, both macro—refugees streaming into Europe—and micro—the trauma of a young Maine boy recovering from abuse and struggling with poverty—earned two BU alumni photojournalists Pulitzer Prizes Monday.

Meanwhile, a third alum learned on her honeymoon that a Washington Post team she was part of won the national reporting Pulitzer for stories about 990 lethal shootings last year by police nationwide.

Jessica Rinaldi (CGS’99, COM’01) of the Boston Globe won the feature photography prize for “The Life and Times of Strider Wolf,” a kindergartner born to poverty in rural Maine and nearly beaten to death at age two by his mother’s boyfriend. Strider’s grandparents took him in, but wound up homeless while caring for him and his brother, forcing the family to move from one campsite to another. “In the chaos and deprivation,” the Globe said, “Strider had a simple and abiding wish: to be loved.” Rinaldi’s three dozen photographs accompanied the story by Globe reporter Sarah Schweitzer.

In the Globe’s report on her win, Rinaldi said that “documentary photography is all about building relationships with your subjects. It allows you to be sort of a fly on the wall.” She and Schweitzer tracked Strider and his family across several months and homes. She was especially proud of one photo showing the boy and his brother, Gallagher, glimpsing the moon from atop a dilapidated car. “It’s such a metaphor,” she said, “these two little boys standing on a car that’s not going anywhere, but looking up at the moon. I was holding my breath and hoping it was in focus.”

Rinaldi learned of her award while in Atlanta, photographing the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association playoffs. Another project she shot for the Globe, chronicling a Boston heroin addict’s struggle to overcome the drug for the sake of her two daughters, was a finalist for the Pulitzer this year as well.

Tyler Hicks photo of migrant refugees coming ashore in Lesbos, Greece

Tyler Hicks (COM’92) captured desperate migrants wading ashore in Lesbos, Greece, as part of a New York Times Pulitzer-winning package. Photo by Tyler Hicks, New York Times

Tyler Hicks (COM’92) of the New York Times worked on a Times–Thomson Reuters team that won for breaking news photography. His image of migrants wading ashore on the island of Lesbos, Greece, was part of a searing package depicting the ongoing crisis of refugees fleeing to, and awaiting help in, Europe.

It was the third Pulitzer for Hicks. His first, in 2009, was for international reporting, covering Pakistan and Afghanistan. His second came two years ago, when he won for breaking news photography for his work showing the fallout of a terrorist attack at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kimbriell Kelly (COM’98) shared a byline in the Washington Post series that explored killings by police officers in 2015. The idea began when the paper discovered that no official database for fatal shootings of civilians by officers exists; 70 staffers from multiple departments assembled the database and compiled stories, photos, data, graphics, and videos about trends revealed by the information. The Post has continued to update its database during 2016.

Kelly was with her new husband in Aruba when coworkers texted and emailed her about the win. “I screamed,” she says. “I think I startled everyone in our hotel.” She coauthored the first story in the series and did the necessary data analysis of two decades of police prosecutions. “I remember people telling me that Ferguson was over, and people would no longer care about this issue,” she recalls.

The series “raised greater accountability in how statistics nationally are kept and prompted an overhaul of those efforts. I’m proud that I got to be a part of something that makes a difference.”

Columbia University, which administers the Pulitzers, journalism’s most celebrated award, announced the winners in 14 journalism categories and in other fields. This year marks the centennial of the awards.

“We in COM couldn’t be more proud of the work done in the past year by Tyler, Jessica, and Kimbriell,” says Thomas Fiedler (COM’71), dean of COM. “They also honor us with their achievement, because there is no greater compliment to—or endorsement for—any journalism program than for Pulitzer Prizes to be awarded to its graduates.”

Amy Laskowski and John O’Rourke contributed to this report.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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