Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Community editor in southwest Florida wins Pulitzer Prize for 'fierce, indignant editorials'

John Hackworth
UPDATE: The newspaper's former editorial-page editor was named a co-recipent after the paper was reminded that he had written three of the eight editorials.

John Hackworth, editor of the Charlotte Sun, a 30,000-circulation daily newspaper in Southwest Florida won a Pulitzer Prize Monday for editorial writing "for fierce, indignant editorials that demanded truth and change after the deadly assault of an inmate by corrections officers," says the Pulitzer Prize website. Hackworth, who gets $10,000 with the award, submitted eight editorials about the death of inmate Matthew Walker at Charlotte Correctional Institute.

"Hackworth said work by the Miami Herald's Julie Brown inspired his paper to look into their own prison deaths," Kristen Hare reports for the Poynter Institute. For the Sun, "Adam Kreger reported the story  . . . and cartoonist Ron Bates offered art throughout the series. As a result of their work, the warden of the prison was moved and 10 of the guards involved no longer work there, Hackworth said." He told Hare, "So we feel like we had an impact."

In his first editorial, published Jan. 15, 2015, Hackworth wrote: "Today, almost two years later, we don’t know the exact cause of his death or any real details of that fateful confrontation between Walker and the prison guards who were later dismissed or put on suspension because of their role in the incident. ... Attempts by family members and the news media to get a clear picture of what happened have met with a stone wall of silence. Public records are heavily redacted (blacked out) and no one has ever said exactly how Walker died or revealed actions that led to his demise. ... Two years seems a ridiculously long time for an 'open' investigation to continue."

The win was bittersweet for the Sun Coast Media Group paper, whose founding publisher, Derek Dunn-Rankin, died at age 88 on Sunday, Earle Kimel reports for the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Dunn-Rankin, who bought the Sun in 1979, "built a company that grew into one of the last independent media groups in the state of Florida. Awards were far less important to Dunn-Rankin than was serving the community. He was a hard-working visionary who worked his way up through the delivery department and became respected in every aspect of the business, including his early recognition of the power of the internet."

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