Melinda Henneberger, a member of The Star’s editorial board for five years, received the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s most prestigious honor on Monday.
She was honored in the comments category for columns that demanded justice for the alleged victims of former Kansas City, Kansas Detective Roger Golubski, who is accused of extorting black women for sexual favors, the sometimes using it to fabricate evidence in cases he handled.
“I’m so upset I really don’t know what to say except this is extremely humiliating and as I may have mentioned hundreds of times before, it’s about time the FBI showed up. with handcuffs,” Henneberger mentioned. “If this finally brings some measure of justice to the victims of Roger Golubski, then that will be the best reward.”
Prior to his victory on Monday, Henneberger had been a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the past three consecutive years.
“Melinda understands the crucial role that in-depth reporting plays in hard-hitting opinion journalism,” said Kristin Roberts, chief content officer at McClatchy, parent company of The Star. “She is a clear and powerful writer whose work tells the stories of people ignored or forgotten – and in doing so, she fulfills journalism’s highest mission: service to our community.”
Mike Fannin, president and editor of The Star, called Henneberger a “rare talent” who has proven over the past five years to be one of the best columnists in the country.
“She not only brings the skills of an investigative journalist, but also a deep compassion for the subjects she writes about,” Fannin said.
Julian Aguon, a freelance contributor to The Atlantic magazine, for an essay on climate change, and Zeynep Tufekci for columns on the pandemic and American culture published in The New York Times and The Atlantic, were also nominated as finalists.
The award marked the ninth time the star has won a Pulitzer Prize, dating back to 1931 and including the 1982 prize for local, general or specific report for his coverage of the Hyatt Skywalk collapse and identification of its causes.
In 1992, Jeff Taylor and Mike McGraw won the National Reporting Award for their critical review of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Star has now been recognized in the best journalism competition for five consecutive years, starting in 2018 with “Why So Secret, Kansas?” finalist for the Public Service Award.
This series was only topped by The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine, which shared the Public Service Award for their combined work on Miramax film producer Harvey Weinstein and the workplace sexual harassment that sparked the #MeToo movement.
Henneberger, who was named vice president and opinion editor for The Star in early 2021, started Monday at McClatchy’s sister newspaper The Sacramento Bee in California, where she will continue to write columns.
For her columns, Henneberger interviewed women who said they had been raped by Golubski. She detailed decades of alleged misconduct, abuse and manipulation.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched its own investigation in 2019 and the following year said it had shared information with authorities about “possible federal violations”. In court records, Golubski denied the allegations against him.
McClatchy Opinion Editor Peter St. Onge said he was thrilled for Henneberger and called his columns on Golubski “deeply reported and powerfully told”.
“They — and Melinda — represent the best in opinion journalism,” he said.
Last month, Henneberger was named the winner of the National Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Feature Writing at the News Leaders Association Awards, an award she had also won three years earlier.
In 2018, she won the Scripps Howard Walker Stone Award for Opinion Writing for “a portfolio of work that is an eye-opening look at the people and political issues that drive conversations in the heart of the country.”
Prior to joining The Star, Henneberger worked for the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Washington Post and New York Times, where she reported for 10 years in New York, Washington and Rome. She was also a Fellow of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
This story was originally published May 9, 2022 3:08 p.m.