On Monday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service, which is considered to be the most prestigious of these awards. The local newspaper was lauded for their coverage of the massacre that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last February.
Unlike the stories that most major news sources ran surrounding the tragedy, the paper’s articles focused on multiple missteps on the part of the school and local authorities that led to further loss of life.
When it comes to these annual awards, which highlight the best of the best in the world of journalism, the main recipients are almost always national organizations. Several local publications were recognized in addition to the Sun Sentinel, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for breaking news coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October, and the Capital Gazette, where five employees were killed in a shooting in June.
It is highly out of the ordinary that a regional publication was presented with one of the highest awards in journalism. More so, the awards come at a time when community journalism has been on a decline. As media monopolizes and continues to move towards an online, ad-based model, it has become increasingly difficult for smaller publications to maintain the revenue stream that they require to employ staff and produce their important stories — stories that would not be heard otherwise.
The Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black hopes that these recognitions establishes a greater level of respect for and acknowledgement of the necessity of the work that local journalism produces. Although coverage of national issues is as important as ever, we should place more weight on the meaningful reporting that is being done to cover local issues.
Whether discussing the Flint Journal’s coverage of the lack of clean water in the Michigan city or the Sacramento Bee’s articles on the devastating California wildfires, local journalists employ high levels of ethical integrity while simultaneously keying into the experience of the community in which they reside.
Without local journalism, community-specific issues often fall by the wayside, and communities whose voices are not as well represented on the national stage cannot be heard.
Further, local journalists work to establish and maintain trust in nationals journalism practices by earning the trust of the communities that they cover.
The Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black feels a camaraderie with these local papers, as we too serve a small community. We will never forget our goal: “to cover the campus like the magnolias,” to provide actionable information to our community. The Old Gold & Black encourages continued support of local journalism, as the coverage and intimate community knowledge that it provides cannot be replicated by national publications.