I nearly cried when I heard the news. The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times had won not one, but two, Pulitzer prizes — one for national reporting and another for feature reporting. It’s the first time the paper has ever won two Pulitzers in the same year.
The national reporting award was in recognition of the paper’s “PolitiFact” project, which combines computer programing and investigative reporting to fact check politicians’ statements.
The feature award went to Lane DeGregory for “The Girl in the Window,” a narrative about 9-year-old Dani, a feral child who was seriously neglected by her biological mother, practically left to die in a small room infested with feces and thousands of German cockroaches. The story is about so much more than neglect; it’s about what it means to let love into your life, to communicate without words, to be lost even after you’ve been found.
I’m of course happy for all the newspapers that won a Pulitzer this year for such stories. But I can’t help but be especially happy for the Times, seeing as I work for The Poynter Institute, which owns the paper.
Nelson Poynter, former editor of the Times, founded the institute in 1975 so that journalists could have the training they needed to be better at what they do. He believed that “ownership or participation in ownership of a publication or broadcast property is a sacred trust and a great privilege.”
His mission and vision for the institute have been carried out throughout the years, so it makes sense that the Times‘ wins means a lot to the school that has such a close connection to the paper.
This year’s Pulitzer awards are a sign that despite all the doom and gloom, good work is still being done. During a time when newspapers are struggling, and on a day that’s marked by historic moments such as the anniversary of the Columbine shootings and Adolf Hitler’s birthday, it was refreshing to associate April 20 with something new — victory and hope for the future of quality journalism.