Karen Tumulty Wins Top Political Reporting Award

Journalism alumna honored with Robin Toner Prize

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Karen Tumulty (B.J., ’77) recently won the Robin Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. The 2013 competition drew 125 entries from across the nation and was selected by 33 veteran journalists.

Tumulty won the prize for work including profiles of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Ted Cruz, an in-depth look at the political landscape in West Virginia, and a portrait of the Vietnam war veteran who gave his 101st Airborne screaming eagle patch to then-Sen. Barack Obama as he campaigned for the presidency.

A graduate of the School of Journalism in the Moody College of Communication, Tumulty is currently a national political correspondent for The Washington Post. She also spent more than a decade each at the L.A. Times and Time magazine.

A native of San Antonio, her first journalistic experience was as an editor and reporter at the Daily Texan.

“The J-School prepared me in two big ways — first by giving me the writing and reporting skills I needed to get that first job,” said Tumulty. “What I have come to realize as more important are the values that it gave me. So much in this business has changed since I graduated and that has meant learning new job skills every day — but the basic values endure.”

Tumulty cited values that include a commitment to making sure all sides of a story are covered, presented accurately, and told in a way that makes readers more knowledgeable and engaged.

She added that Senior Lecturer Griff Singer and former faculty members Mike Quinn and Red Gibson helped shape and influence her career and life.

“The night before I graduated, Griff and my family went out to dinner and I ended up sobbing my eyes out, convinced the best part of my life was behind me,” said Tumulty. “Griff not only calmed me down, but gave me a piece of advice that I followed a couple of years later. He advised me to go out and learn a specialty—ultimately, that advice was what got me to Harvard Business School.”

Her work, as one judge described it, shows “great breadth of reporting, excellent looks at politics from ground level, marries politics and humanity.”

Tumulty visits Austin regularly, is on the steering committee for the School of Journalism yearlong centennial celebration, and is a strong supporter of the Moody College. She advises aspiring journalists to set themselves apart by becoming a subject matter expert.

“Learn a subject in addition to the basics of journalism,” said Tumulty. “That expertise could be what makes you stand out from other job applicants.”


In the video above, Tumulty accepts the Toner Prize Award with in a ceremony with a keynote address by Vice President Joe Biden.

The award is named for the late Robin Toner, a respected political reporter who spent 25 years as a correspondent for the New York Times.

Marc Speir
Senior Content Producer