Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2023

Title:Asking important questions

Author: Patti North
Date Published: April 17, 2023
people stand in front of the Pulitzer Prize sign
From left to right: Philip Rucker, Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis, The Washington Post’s four lead writers and reporters on the investigative series, “The Attack,” along with National Editor Matea Gold, arrive at the Pulitzer Prize award ceremony at Columbia University on Oct. 20, 2022. Photo: Bill O’Leary

Aaron Davis (C’99), investigative reporter for The Washington Post, has shared in winning the Pulitzer Prize twice, and been a finalist three times, in 2014, 2019, and 2020. He was a lead reporter and writer on a series of stories awarded the top prize, the 2022 Pulitzer for Public Service. Davis wrote or co-wrote five of the articles, including an investigative series on the causes, costs, and aftermath of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The 36,000-word series was one of the longest articles ever published by The Post, and was based on hundreds of interviews and thou- sands of pages of documents.

In 2018, he shared the Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting as a member of the reporting team that revealed allegations of sexual harassment of teenage girls by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to be among the other winners: poets, musicians, and writers,” he says about the Pulitzer awards ceremony, “until someone inevitably says ‘Congratulations on now knowing how the first line of your obituary will read.’”

“I credit Georgetown for giving me the flexibility to figure out what my calling would be—I changed majors a few times,” he says. Eventually, a friend invited him to write for The Hoya. The rest of his Georgetown career was spent taking every journalism course offered, and logging almost full-time hours as an intern at ABC News and USA Today, while making up coursework during the summer. “I somehow managed to graduate in four years,” he laughs. Before joining The Post, Davis reported for the Associated Press, the San Jose Mercury News, Florida Today, and USA Today. He has reported from Iraq, India, and eight other countries.

“I love investigative reporting,” says Davis. “It’s a job where you can wake up and think ‘What’s the most important question we can answer for the country?’” But it’s not just big, national stories that can drive public service. “Early on I was writing obituaries and came across a 3-year-old who had choked to death on an imported, cone-shaped candy,” he recalls. “On a hunch, I called the medical examiners in the area and found that in the last four months two other children had died choking on the same candy and another was on life support.” Within two weeks of his reporting, federal marshals had seized all of the supply and its importation was banned.

“But I also know that something I write might cost someone their job or be the thing that everyone remembers about them,” he notes. “I take that in a very serious and human way. I respect my sources, while building trust and rapport. It’s not just a story for them.”

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