West Africa correspondent for Associated Press wins 2011 Pulliam writing award

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

March 23, 2011

Rukmini Callimachi, West Africa correspondent with the Associated Press (AP), has won Ball State University's 2011 Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award for her article "Haiti-Hotel Montana."

Published on Sept. 1, 2010, Callimachi's award-winning article details the aftermath of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti and one of its most luxurious hotels, Hotel Montana.  Callimachi shares how one family started a Facebook page to find a missing relative and how it became a place of strength for all families searching for lost loved ones. Callimachi will be recognized April 13 at the Department of Journalism's annual awards luncheon. She also will speak about her story in a speech, "Lessons Learned," at 8 p.m. April 13 in L.A. Pittenger Student Center's Cardinal Hall. The event is free and open to the public as part of the journalism department's Professional-in-Residence series.

Callimachi's story chronicles the earthquake in January 2010 and its devastation and destruction. Callimachi's narrative includes interviews with everyone from families and friends of people who died in the hotel to the survivors who were found alive in the rescue effort.  She also speaks with those who helped in the attempt to save the people trapped in the rubble of the hotel and with members and organizers of the Facebook site.

Judges called Callimachi's narrative "a compelling story of an online family born out of the rubble of a Haiti hotel." They noted her painstaking exploration of the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake and how she "humanized" the dire situation with her focus on the search and rescue of so many.

The Dartmouth College and Oxford University graduate joined AP as a West Africa correspondent in December 2006.  It wasn't her first time working for AP; she was a business writer and reporter in Portland, Oregon, and reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for the newswire. Before AP, she worked for Time magazine and National Public Radio as a freelance journalist. A finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, Callimachi is recognized internationally as an accomplished narrative journalist, having won Associated Press Managing Editors Awards and story of the year honors from the Religion Newswriters Association.

In recognition of winning the award, Callimachi will receive a plaque and a $1,500 prize, presented on behalf of the Pulliam family, who sponsor the annual writing award administered by the Department of Journalism. The competition, which dates back to 1960, has a distinguished history and legacy. Three former winners of the prestigious award have later won Pulitzer Prizes.

By Samantha Irons

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