Washington Post journalist Caroline Kitchener ’14 was at home one Sunday morning in early May when she received a call from the newspaper’s executive editor and learned that she had won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting. “I just immediately started crying,” she says. “It was a really surreal moment.”
Since 2021, Kitchener has covered abortion as a national political reporter, tracing both the laws surrounding abortion and the widespread consequences of such legislation in a post-Roe America. Kitchener’s Pulitzer win, which was publicly announced on May 8, highlighted the unflinching nature of her work, including stories she had written about a Texas teenager who gave birth to twins after she was denied an abortion and an abortion clinic forced to shut down the day that Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“I love writing about [abortion], because I think it’s so interesting to write about something that people care so deeply about, but it also makes it extremely challenging,” Kitchener says. “What I have tried to do with my coverage is stand in the gray area and the nuance of this issue, because it is so often defined by these black-and-white battles where emotion is so heightened on each side.”
Kitchener’s career was made possible in many ways by her time at Princeton. She majored in history and obtained a certificate in gender and sexuality studies, and originally thought she would become a lawyer — until, on a whim, she took journalism professor Evan Thomas’ seminar in her junior year.
“I only took one journalism class, but it was incredibly important for my career,” Kitchener says. “I was really passionate about writing about some of these campus sexual assault issues, and [Thomas] helped me craft a story that I was extremely proud of. I eventually pitched and got published in The Guardian. From there, he helped me get a summer internship at The Atlantic and helped guide my career at every step of the way.”
Kitchener’s senior thesis, which delved into campus administrators’ responses to college sexual assaults during the late 1980s, was similarly influential. “My senior thesis was a history thesis, but it was sort of a secret journalism thesis,” she says. “It got me really excited about doing in-depth investigative reporting.”
Now, Kitchener’s job is a high-wire act covering the ever-shifting landscape of abortion across America. On any given day, Kitchener might be traveling to whichever state has just released new abortion legislation, writing breaking news updates, and reporting on a longer, more in-depth article. “I love that about my job — it’s really different depending on the day,” she says.
Throughout her reporting, Kitchener has always strived to center the people who are affected. “Abortion coverage often focuses on the laws and the court cases, and I just felt like there was really room for more human stories about the topic,” Kitchener says. “I think it’s so important that we hear really honest stories about what people are going through as a result of the impact of these laws.”