Claremont, Calif. (August 5, 2021)—Dana Brozost-Kelleher ’16 has received the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting as part of a team of journalists who investigated the use of K-9 units and the damage police dogs inflict on Americans. Their series, “Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons,” prompted numerous reforms on the state level and was selected for the most prestigious award in American journalism over finalists from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Brozost-Kelleher is a reporter with the Invisible Institute, an independent journalism production nonprofit on the South Side of Chicago that focuses on human rights issues, including police accountability. The Pulitzer-winning team included staff from The Invisible Institute, The Marshall Project, AL.com in Birmingham, AL, and the IndyStar.
The Invisible Institute became interested in the use of police dogs when one of its data reporters saw that the Indianapolis Police Department had reported an extremely high number of police dog bites. Brozost-Kelleher and colleagues investigated further, compared data with other police departments in the nation, and found Indianapolis had a much higher number of police dog bites than comparable cities. They reached out to the IndyStar to work on the story together. Then, they learned the Marshall Project, an online investigative operation named after Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was working on a similar story.
“We joined forces, brought our data and reporting together, and it became more of a national enterprise,” said Brozost-Kelleher.
For Brozost-Kelleher, that spirit of collaboration gives her hope for the journalism profession today.
“You can put together a powerful package when you have a talented team of reporters, editors, and visual designers working on the same project. It comes out strong,” she said.
Collaboration comes naturally to Brozost-Kelleher, who graduated from Pitzer with a degree in history and played on the Sagehen’s Women’s Basketball team. She considers the small, intimate environment where everyone shared experiences and opinions in the classroom an essential part of her Pitzer College experience.
Brozost-Kelleher also credits Associate Professor of History Harmony O’Rourke’s oral history class with sparking her interest in investigative journalism.
“Her class ignited my passion for storytelling,” said Brozost-Kelleher, whose senior thesis documented the struggles her mother and her mother’s 11 siblings faced after the family was forced to separate and navigate life growing up within the foster care system. She presented their stories within the context of what was happening in American society after World War II, indicting the flawed welfare system designed to support them.
“Dana really grew as a writer at Pitzer,” said O’Rourke, who was her main thesis adviser. “Her writing became sharp and powerful. It was also very humane. She never let the analytic drown out the voices or experiences of the people she was writing about. At the same time, she made sure their voices had analytical and historical significance—that they mattered.”
Brozost-Kelleher is the second Pitzer College graduate in a decade to win a Pulitzer for investigative journalism. In 2011, Jeff Gottlieb ’75 and his Los Angeles Times team received a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service when they exposed corruption by high-level officials and council members in the City of Bell, leading to the arrest of eight of the city’s top officials.
Brozost-Kelleher sees a connection between her education as a history major at Pitzer and the kind of investigative journalism that leads to positive social change. She says she would not be where she is today without the history program at Pitzer.
“Pitzer teaches you to read history from multiple perspectives and question everything you read. That has been very valuable in investigative journalism because it’s easy to just believe what you read. It’s much harder to question things,” Brozost-Kelleher said.
“A liberal arts education has taught me to be passionate about looking for the truth.”