J-school alumnus Steve Fainaru awarded Pulitzer Prize

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | 6:36 p.m. CDT; updated 12:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Steve Fainaru was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting on Monday.

COLUMBIA — Six Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to The Washington Post on Monday, one of which went to a Missouri School of Journalism alumnus.

Steve Fainaru’s 10-part series on how private security contractors in Iraq operate outside many of the laws governing U.S. Forces won the award for International Reporting. Fainaru, 46, graduated from the School of Journalism in 1984.

“I had worked on the project all of 2007,” he said Tuesday.

The experience of finding out he had won the award was bittersweet, said Fainaru, an international reporter with the Post.

Fainaru was at a reception in Lee’s Summit for a man who had been kidnapped and killed while in Iraq when he got the call on Friday. Fainaru got to know the man’s story through his work on the series.

“I was elated to win, but it was a sad situation,” he said. “This is the highest honor in journalism, but the timing was just odd.”

Despite the recognition, Fainaru doesn’t feel the accolade will change his life or career.

“I have heard from so many people, and it is great to be able to share this with them,” Fainaru said. “But I already have the job I want, so I have no intentions to change.”

According to a list of winners provided by a journalism school spokeswoman, Fainaru is the 21st Missouri School of Journalism alumnus to be awarded an individual Pulitzer. He also has a master’s degree from Columbia University. He credits some of his success to the training he received at the Missouri School of Journalism.

While a reporter at the Columbia Missourian — a teaching laboratory at the Missouri School of Journalism — Fainaru covered the Rock Bridge High School football team. Early in his career, he landed a job at the San Jose Mercury News in California where he also covered high school football.

“The reality of journalism is really doing it, so the J-school was invaluable. The work done at the J-school is really not that different from the real world,” Fainaru said. “It confirmed this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

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