Parkland parents ask Pulitzer panel to honor local paper for school shooting coverage

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Two parents who lost children during last year’s Parkland, Fla., school shooting have asked the Pulitzer Prize committee to honor the South Florida Sun Sentinel for its coverage of the incident, its aftermath and what led up to that day’s events.

Ryan Petty and Andrew Pollack published their letter to the Pulitzer committee on Real Clear Education, saying only the local newspaper “covered the real story.”

{mosads}“The Associated Press declared that the Parkland school shooting was the biggest news story of 2018,” the fathers wrote. “But as far as we – parents whose children were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – are concerned, only the South Florida Sun Sentinel covered the real story. That’s why we’re writing you – the Pulitzer Prize Committee – to ask that our local newspaper be awarded journalism’s highest honor.”

The parents each had a daughter die when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 people.

The students who survived the mass shooting launched a “crusade” against the National Rifle Association and held the March for Our Lives anti-gun violence rally in Washington, D.C., that attracted thousands of participants and garnered national media attention.

“But it was not enough for the families of the children who were murdered,” the fathers wrote in their letter to Pulitzer Prize board. “We wanted to know the answers to the question that the media used to ask after a school shooting: How could this have happened?”

Local reporters at the Sun Sentinel worked for almost a year to report on how the shooting was “enabled by a sheriff’s office and a school district characterized by administrative incompetence so staggering and moral corruption,” the fathers wrote.

Survivors questioned how the school district ignored potential red flags from the gunman, a former student. The Broward County Sheriff’s Department has long been criticized for how its officers did not confront the shooter as the massacre unfolded inside the school.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced this month that he suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel following reporters that that his office received 18 tips about the suspected gunman prior to the incident.

“The Sun Sentinel reporters stayed on the beat despite the fact that Superintendent Runcie tried to throw its reporters in jail,” the fathers wrote, referring to how the Broward County Public School District asked a judge to hold reports in contempt of court after the newspaper published redacted portions of the gunman’s education records.

Dana Canedy, administrator for Pulitzer prizes, told The Hill: “Pulitzer 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.”

The Pulitzer, considered journalism’s most prestigious honor, is presented every spring, with awards in 21 different categories. Prizes were first awarded in 1917.

The staff of the Santa Rosa, Calif., Press Democrat won the Pulitzer for breaking news last year for its wildfire coverage in the state, while The Cincinnati Enquirer won a Pulitzer for local reporting on the city’s heroin epidemic.

Sun Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman shared the parents’ letter on Twitter.

“This means a lot to me personally -that Parkland parents felt we channeled the grief into something productive and used the power of the press the way it was intended,” she wrote.

Tags breaking news florida school shooting Journalism Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School media Parkland Pulitzer Prize Ron DeSantis

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