Daily alum Hannah Allam today shared in winning journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize.
She was one of the lead reporters on a massive effort undertaken by The Washington Post, “The Attack,” which explained how the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol was “neither a spontaneous act nor an isolated event.”
This afternoon that three-part project was awarded the Pulitzer for Public Service for what judges called its “compellingly told and vividly presented account of the assault on Washington on January 6, 2021, providing the public with a thorough and unflinching understanding of one of the nation’s darkest days.”
It was a full-circle moment for Allam, who followed along on Twitter when the awards were announced while she was over the Atlantic flying back from reporting in Ukraine. The Oklahoma City native, who was Daily editor in 1999 and interned at the Post after graduation, was hired by the Post in late 2020.
There she continued and deepened the work that has defined her career, chronicling and explaining the rise of domestic terrorism, as part of the storied news organization’s national security team. Upon announcing her hire in November 2020, The Post noted she would report “on the mainstreaming of hate and extremism, online radicalization that leads to real-world violence and the national security implications of the country’s polarization.”
Just months later, she reported from the Capitol as the insurrection unfolded.
The Post published the award-winning series in November 2021, at which time Executive Editor Sally Buzbee explained to readers the work was based on interviews with more than 230 people and thousands of pages of court documents and internal law enforcement reports, along with hundreds of videos, photographs and audio recordings.
It was work Allam was uniquely poised to contribute to bringing to audiences with context and clarity. After graduating from OU, she spent a decade as a McClatchy foreign correspondent, serving as bureau chief in Baghdad during the Iraq War and in Cairo during the Arab Spring rebellions. She later worked on the national desk at BuzzFeed News, reporting on American Muslims and other issues of race and religion, before being laid off in a round of cuts in January 2019. After that she joined NPR, where she reported exhaustively on far-right militias and hate groups as a national correspondent until being hired by The Post.
While her work has taken her around the world and earned her a place on journalism’s biggest stages, Allam has always returned to her Oklahoma roots. Last summer, in a piece separate from the Pulitzer-winning project, she reported during a trip home on the parallels between events in 2021 in Washington and those more than 25 years prior in Oklahoma City.
“Domestic terrorism analysts trace a straight line from the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to the Jan. 6 breach — two history-making attacks fueled by anti-government, conspiratorial thinking,” she wrote. “Yet in the same city where McVeigh detonated a nearly 5,000-pound bomb, killing 168 people and wounding hundreds more, top Republican leaders are reluctant to acknowledge far-right extremism, much less take meaningful steps to address it.
OU Student Media inducted Allam into its Hall of Fame in 2016. Beyond the roles noted above, she was named NABJ’s journalist of the year in 2004; she studied sectarianism in Islam as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 2008-09; and she chaired the Pulitzer Prize international reporting jury in 2015.
Before all that, she led the Daily staff to a Pacemaker award, commonly known as the Pulitzers of college media, in part by prioritizing making its coverage better reflect the diversity of campus.
“When I became bureau chief in Baghdad, the only management experience I had was being editor of The Daily,” Allam once said. “Working at The Daily was the foundation of my career. It’s where I wrote my first news story, first earned a paycheck for reporting, first felt the thrill of a scoop, first got to manage a newsroom. More than anything, I fell in love with the fun of it all, especially working with such talented colleagues who’ve gone on to do groundbreaking journalism in Oklahoma and elsewhere.”