Sun Sen­tinel awarded Pulitzer for cov­er­age of Park­land shoot­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Randy Ro­guski

The South Florida Sun Sen­tinel was awarded the pres­ti­gious Pulitzer Prize for pub­lic ser­vice on Mon­day for its im­pact­ful cov­er­age of the mass shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land.

The prize, the most re­spected in jour­nal­ism, rec­og­nized the news­pa­per’s 10-month ef­fort to re­veal how 17 peo­ple could be mur­dered in a school con­sid­ered one of the safest Please turn to PULITZER, A6

“It means so much to win the gold medal Pulitzer for pub­lic ser­vice be­cause that’s the spirit in which we ap­proached our Park­land cov­er­age. We wanted our re­port­ing to make a dif­fer­ence so that this never hap­pens again.” Julie An­der­son, Sun Sen­tinel Edi­tor-in-Chief

in Florida.

In dozens of sto­ries, the Sun Sen­tinel ex­posed fail­ures by the school dis­trict, law en­force­ment and so­cial ser­vices that en­abled the teenage gun­man to en­ter the school on Valen­tine’s Day 2018 and slaugh­ter staff and stu­dents with a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle.

The Sun Sen­tinel’s cov­er­age sparked sig­nif­i­cant changes in law en­force­ment and school safety and led to leg­is­la­tion to hold schools more ac­count­able for crimes that oc­cur on their cam­puses.

The Pulitzer judges cited the Sun Sen­tinel’s sto­ries for “ex­pos­ing fail­ings by school and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials be­fore and af­ter the deadly shoot­ing ram­page at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School.”

Pulitzer Prizes are awarded in 14 cat­e­gories of jour­nal­ism, and the award for pub­lic ser­vice, rec­og­nized with a gold medal, is con­sid­ered the most pres­ti­gious. The Sun Sen­tinel also was named a fi­nal­ist for this year’s Pulitzer in break­ing news for what the board called “ex­haus­tive and lu­cid” cov­er­age that “brought com­pas­sion and clar­ity to a hor­rific tragedy.”

This is the se­cond time the Sun Sen­tinel has won the Pulitzer for pub­lic ser­vice re­port­ing. In 2013, the Pulitzer board awarded the Sun Sen­tinel its gold medal for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of off­duty po­lice of­fi­cers en­dan­ger­ing the lives of cit­i­zens by speed­ing. The se­ries of sto­ries, ti­tled “Above the Law: Speed­ing Cops,” led po­lice de­part­ments across South Florida to dis­ci­pline scores of of­fi­cers and in­sti­tute new ways of track­ing po­lice ac­tiv­ity.

The Sun Sen­tinel’s Park­land cov­er­age in­cluded news sto­ries and opin­ion pieces that:

Laid bare how the Broward County school dis­trict failed to deal with a vi­o­lent, men­tally dis­turbed stu­dent who be­came a mass mur­derer.

Ex­posed a cul­ture of le­niency that en­abled the fu­ture shooter to get away with crim­i­nal be­hav­ior in school.

Re­vealed that in­ac­cu­rate school crime re­port­ing pre­sented a false pic­ture of safety from Mi­ami to the Pan­han­dle.

Held the Broward School Board re­spon­si­ble for hid­ing or dis­tort­ing pub­lic in­for­ma­tion.

De­tailed the cow­ardice, lack of lead­er­ship and in­ad­e­quate train­ing of law en­force­ment, even as the sher­iff ex­tolled his agency’s per­for­mance.

“It means so much to win the gold medal Pulitzer for pub­lic ser­vice be­cause that’s the spirit in which we ap­proached our Park­land cov­er­age,” said Sun Sen­tinel Edi­tor-in-Chief Julie An­der­son. “We wanted our re­port­ing to make a dif­fer­ence so that this never hap­pens again.”

Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Dana Banker said: “This was the big­gest and the sad­dest story our news­room has ever cov­ered. More than any­thing else, we wanted our work to serve the greater good. In a world where the next school shoot­ing seems in­evitable, we be­lieved we had to do ev­ery­thing we could to ex­pose what went wrong and the lessons to be learned.”

The Ea­gle Eye stu­dent news­pa­per at Stone­man Dou­glas was rec­og­nized by the Pulitzer board for doc­u­ment­ing the shoot­ing and af­ter­math while cop­ing with its dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects. Pulitzer Ad­min­is­tra­tor Dana Canedy said the stu­dents “should give us all hope for the fu­ture of jour­nal­ism in this great democ­racy.”

The judges also is­sued a spe­cial ci­ta­tion to the staff of the Cap­i­tal Gazette in An­napo­lis, Mary­land, where five peo­ple were killed when a gun­man stormed into their news­room on June 28, 2018.

The Gazette, a sis­ter pa­per to the Sun Sen­tinel, demon­strated “un­flag­ging com­mit­ment to cov­er­ing the news and serv­ing their com­mu­nity at a time of un­speak­able grief.” The ci­ta­tion comes with a $100,000 be­quest by the Pulitzer Board to be used to fur­ther the news­pa­per’s jour­nal­is­tic mis­sion.

In ad­di­tion to the Pulitzer, sev­eral other lead­ing jour­nal­ism or­ga­ni­za­tions have rec­og­nized the Sun Sen­tinel’s Park­land cov­er­age this year.

The news­pa­per this month re­ceived the O’Brien Fel­low­ship Award for Im­pact in Pub­lic Ser­vice Jour­nal­ism from the News Lead­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing the edi­tors and ex­ec­u­tives of the na­tion’s news me­dia.

The Scripps Howard Foun­da­tion in March awarded the Sun Sen­tinel its top prize for break­ing news cov­er­age. The foun­da­tion also rec­og­nized the Sun Sen­tinel as a fi­nal­ist in two other cat­e­gories – In­no­va­tion and Mul­ti­me­dia – for two in­ter­ac­tive projects, “Voices of Change” and “Un­pre­pared and Over­whelmed.”

The So­ci­ety for News De­sign awarded those projects bronze medals ear­lier in the year for best dig­i­tal de­sign in a global competition.


Staff of the Sun Sen­tinel learn of their honor.

Staff mem­bers react to the Sun Sen­tinel be­ing awarded the Pulitzer Prize for pub­lic ser­vice. CARLINE JEAN/SUN SEN­TINEL

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