The Sun-Sentinel's Prize

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, April 16, 2013 No Comment(s)

It does not seem such a long time ago, but is at least 20 years since people who wanted to know what was happening in Broward and much of Palm Beach County relied mainly on The Miami Herald. The Sun-Sentinel had some very good writers but they seemed to get lured away to bigger papers. Bernie Lincicome went to Chicago, Pete Dexter to Philadelphia, then Washington state, and Mitch Albom wound up in Detroit, writing successful books. Others, Michael Connelly and Dexter are the best examples, made it big as fiction writers.

But anybody in the journalism business knew that on a day to day basis, the Herald set the agenda for most of the Gold Coast. It had a large bureau in Fort Lauderdale, a presence in Palm Beach, and even a staffer in Vero Beach. Head to head against the Sun-Sentinel, then known as the Fort Lauderdale News, the Herald usually won. It also won numerous prizes, including 20 Pulitzers.

That has changed. Year by year the Herald retreated toward its base in Miami. It closed its Fort Lauderdale office and its coverage reflected it. Today its influence is only strong in south Broward. Its local section often features Miami stories, of limited interest up here. And even though it – and all daily papers – has also been under circulation pressure, the Sun-Sentinel has become dominant in Fort Lauderdale and much of south Palm Beach County. Its overall quality has clearly improved, but it never won a Pulitzer Prize.

Until yesterday. There was much joy in the city room when the announcement that reporter Sally Kestin and database specialist John Maines earned the paper the prestigious Pulitzer Gold Medal for public service journalism. Their story was based on a three-month investigation of speeding cops. Through clever innovation they showed that up to 800 police officers reached speeds of 90 to 130 miles per hour.

Pulitzer Prize-winning stories are supposed to get results. This one sure did. According to today’s paper (Sun-Sentinel, of course), police departments in South Florida have disciplined officers and instituted reforms, actually adopting the reporters' database to track their own people. The results have made the roads safer for us all.

Well done, Sun-Sentinel.

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