Lithuanian-American Wins Pulitzer Prize

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Andrea Januta

Daughter of refugees grew up in the US

In June, a team of Reuters reporters were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for their investigation on US courts shielding police accused of excessive force. One of them, was Andrea Januta daughter of a post WWII refugee family.

On her website, Andrea Januta introduces herself as a New York-based enterprise reporter for Reuters News, focused on investigations and data. She has a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and interned on the business desk at the Miami Herald. Before studying journalism, she was a financial data analyst at Goldman Sachs. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in math and economics from Yale University. 

In 2018, she and three Reuters colleagues published a series of reports examining hazardous conditions in privatized U.S. military housing. The series resulted in three federal investigations, new legislation, public hearings before congress, widespread repairs to protect children, and an emergency $386 million program to inspect homes for hazards. In June of this year, the three were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for their investigation on US courts shielding police accused of excessive force.

Family Background

The Januta family moved to the US during the Second World War. Andrea’s father was born to poet and writer Petronėlė Orintaitė and Kazys Januta in Vilnius in 1941. They avoided the massive deportations by the Soviets, unleashed that same year, because the family was away at that time. They lived in Vilnius until 1944, then  spent several years in a refugee camp in Germany, before emigrating to Chicago.

The family never forgot its roots. Growing up in the US, Andrea heard the Lithuanian language, tasted Lithuanian dishes. She says that her Lithuanian heritage always played an important role in her life. Andrea has visited Lithuania every summer since she was a child. While the family would spend several weeks travelling the country, the journalist would always find the time to explore the Vilnius Old Town, Palanga, and Kudirkos Naumiestis in the southwest of Lithuania.

Andrea became interested in journalism during her last year of university when she enrolled in a creative writing class. She received a degree in journalism from Columbia University, and went on to complete a three-month internship as a business reporter for Miami Herald. She joined Reuters in 2018, after spending some time as a freelance journalist. “The best thing about being a journalist is being able to explore new topics”, said Andrea, adding that she has already covered the US army, police, courts, internet freedom, business, and climate change, and is always drawn to exposing injustice. 

The Work that Won the Prize

The series of investigations took about two years to complete, according to Andrea, partly because of the time it took to collect and analyse data, which was unlike anything she had done before. “There was no fast way to do it – we had to find and read thousands of court documents. With every ruling, we filled out a spreadsheet with dozens of questions about each case so that we could analyse and compare them”, she told LRT.lt. The pandemic also slowed down the process. The team was getting ready to publish the first story, but then suddenly could no longer meet in person. Then she caught the coronavirus in New York, and though she recovered fully, it was extra stress.

Andrea said that winning the was unexpected and overwhelming. “I am honoured to win this award, but mostly I am grateful to my colleagues and editors, as well as the people we interviewed. It can be difficult to revisit such painful and traumatic events, and I’m thankful they trusted us with their stories.”

She intends to continue seeking out important topics. “My goal has always been to tell important stories that expose problems and can make a difference. I hope I can continue to write meaningful articles like this throughout my career.”

With information from LRT.lt and andreajanuta.com