Former DI reporter a part of Pulitzer-winning team for coverage of George Floyd’s death

Chao Xiong reflects on recently winning a Pulitzer Prize as “bittersweet” considering the events that he covered.

April+20%2C+2021%3B+Minneapolis%2C+Minnesota%2C+USA%3B+++Crowds+celebrate+in+the+streets+outside+of+the+Hennepin+Government+Center+as+Derek+Chauvin+was+found+guilty+of+second-degree+murder%2C+third-degree+murder+and+second-degree+manslaughter+in+the+death+of+George+Floyd.+Floyd+died+on+May+25%2C+2020+while+in+police+custody.+A+video+showing+Derek+Chauvin+kneeling+on+George+Floyds+neck+sparked+world+wide+protests+against+police+brutality.

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

April 20, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Crowds celebrate in the streets outside of the Hennepin Government Center as Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Floyd died on May 25, 2020 while in police custody. A video showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck sparked world wide protests against police brutality.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter


Chao Xiong was a 2003 University of Iowa alum and a former Daily Iowan reporter. Now, he can add Pulitzer Prize recipient to his resume. Xiong and other reporters at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have been recognized for their coverage of George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed.

“It was a bittersweet moment because it’s always nice to be recognized for the work that you are doing,” Xiong said. “But of course, this stems from a very tragic event that ends with someone losing their life and really creating a lot of pain in our community and throughout the world.”

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered Floyd outside of a grocery store on April 20. Floyd’s death sparked a movement for equity and justice.

The day after Floyd died, Xiong said he went to the corner of Chicago Avenue South and 38th Street East in Minneapolis to report Floyd’s murder. Xiong said he lives in the neighborhood of the Third Precinct and the heart of where the initial protests occurred.

Xiong said he felt he had the responsibility to be involved through reporting. Xiong wrote articles for the Star Tribune during the Chauvin trial and trial testimonies.

“I wanted to be a part of that storytelling as someone who lives in Minneapolis, lives so close to the heart of this,” he said.

The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on June 11. The Star Tribune staff won in the breaking news category.

“The prize is awarded to the staff of The Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for its urgent, authoritative, and nuanced coverage of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, and of the reverberations that followed,” said Mindy Marqués, co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, in the announcement ceremony.

Xiong said the magnitude of Floyd’s death showed him how far Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the country needs to go in terms of equity.

Xiong said his parents are immigrants from Laos who came to America after the Vietnam War. He said his father was a schoolteacher in Laos and Thai Refugee camps.

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He said his family prepared him to be a journalist and a storyteller.

“[My father] always read the newspaper, we always watched the news as a family, the local news, national news, all the news programs out there, you know, 20/20Dateline,” Xiong said.

He grew up in the Des Moines area and said living in Iowa’s capital has also helped his career in journalism.

“I think it gives me the perspective of being open to people’s stories and not necessarily feeling superior to anyone if that makes sense,” Xiong said. “I think there is a humbleness to the Midwest.”

He added that the DI and the UI prepared Xiong for his career by giving him a post-secondary education and showing him the foundations of journalism.

Xiong is currently on the Hennepin County District County Courts beat at the Minneapolis newspaper, the Star Tribune.

Ryan J. Foley was on the DI staff with Xiong. Foley said they wrote articles localizing the September 11 attack and the Iraq War, during their time at the DI.

“We worked together very closely for our whole time at the DI,” Foley said. “We were both scholars who were on the staff for four years and Chao was always a remarkable journalist. That was clear, during his time at the DI.”

Foley said he was thrilled when he heard about Xiong’s Pulitzer-winning coverage from the Star Tribune.

“I’m thrilled for him. I had been following his work over the last year and it was remarkable,” Foley said. “He’s been doing great work in Minneapolis, covering local criminal justice issues and a range of other stories for many, many years.”

Foley said Xiong knows how to follow a story as a reporter and can build trust with sources. He said Xiong made sure that there was a diversity of opinions and viewpoints at the DI. 

“It’s not a surprise to me that he really excelled in covering a story like this that was so sensitive,” Foley said. “He has all the skills for it.”

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