Education

Parkland Shooting Coverage Earns Sun Sentinel Pulitzer Prize for Public Service

By Mark Walsh — April 15, 2019 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday for its intensive followup coverage of last year’s mass shooting that killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

The Pulitzer Prize board awarded the top journalism prize “for exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

Meanwhile, the Pulitzer board gave a special mention to the Eagle Eye, the student newspaper at Stoneman Douglas High, for its coverage of the shooting.

The Sun Sentinel’s immediate coverage after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting spree was cited as a finalist in the breaking news category (losing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s coverage of the Oct. 27 mass shooting at a synagogue that killed 11 people). But it was the Fort Lauderdale-based newspaper’s stories in the months after the school shooting that led to the public service prize.

The paper’s 20 story submissions included “A lost and lonely killer,” an examination of the shooter’s troubled life published just over a week after the shootings; “Hide, deny, spin, threaten: How the school district tried to mask failures that led to Parkland shooting,” published Nov. 30; and “Unprepared and overwhelmed,” a Dec. 28 account of how educators and police in Parkland were unprepared for a mass shooter despite the lessons of Columbine High School in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Other submissions included “What went wrong on the third floor in Parkland school shooting?” and “What went right on the second floor in Parkland?

And yet another submission was from last August, “Judge blasts Sun-Sentinel for publishing confidential information about Parkland school shooting case.” The story referred to a Broward County School District report about the shooter that was supposed to be substantially blacked out on the district’s public website, but which the newspaper was able to read in full by copying and pasting into another file. A lawyer for the paper argued in court that the Sun-Sentinel violated no laws by publishing the information.

“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,” Sun Sentinel Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson said in a report in her newspaper. “We wanted our reporting to make a difference so that this never happens again.”

Managing Editor Dana Banker said in the same report “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.”

In January, two parents of students slain at Stoneman Douglas High School wrote an open letter to the leadership of the Pulitzer Prizes, calling for the Sun Sentinel to be awarded the top prize for its coverage of the mass shooting.

“This was the most avoidable mass murder in American history, enabled by a sheriff’s office and a school district characterized by administrative incompetence so staggering and moral corruption so deep that it took the Sun Sentinel the better part of the year the uncover it all,” says the letter published Jan. 30 at the website Real Clear Education by Andrew Pollack and Ryan Petty. “But long after the national media moved on to the next controversy, local reporters here kept at it.”

Dana Canedy, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, told Education Week at the time that prize deliberations “are held in strict confidence in order to maintain the integrity of the judging process. And we let the prize selections speak for themselves.”

Petty tweeted Monday, “Well deserved by the @SunSentinel team. Their coverage of the MSD tragedy went well beyond these hashtags. That’s what great journalism is all about.”

Canedy recognized the Eagle Eye student journalists at the outset of the announcement ceremony, noting that the newspaper had submitted the obituaries it had published of the 17 students and staff members killed in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High.

“I want to break with tradition and offer my sincere admiration for an entry that did not win, but which should give us all hope for the future of journalism in this great democracy,” Canedy said. “These budding journalists remind us of the media’s unwavering commitment to bearing witness, even in the most wrenching of circumstances, in service to a nation whose very existence depends on a free and dedicated press.”

There was one other education series cited as a finalist. The Philadelphia Inquirer was a finalist for local reporting for what the Pulitzer board said was “dogged scientific investigation and evocative storytelling that exposed toxic dangers lurking in Philadelphia school buildings that sickened children in their classrooms.”

The reporters on the series were Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman, Dylan Purcell, and Jessica Griffin. The winner of the local reporting category was the Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge, La., for a series on discrimination in jury trials.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP