January 31, 2019

Parkland parents praise South Florida Sun-Sentinel

It always seemed like an uncomfortable juxtaposition: winning a journalism award for writing about a horrible tragedy, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks or a deadly weather calamity. You would like to believe that any journalist would gladly trade in a trophy to erase a horrible event.

Certainly those who covered the worst high school shooting in American history wish the events of that day never happened. But one paper in particular is being endorsed for journalism’s highest award and you might be surprised who is advocating its coverage.

Two parents who lost children in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida, wrote an open letter Wednesday asking the Pulitzer Prize board to recognize the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for its coverage of the shootings and its aftermath.

Fathers Andrew Pollack and Ryan Petty, in a letter published on Real Clear Education’s website, wrote that most of the national media’s coverage centered on gun control:

“But it was not enough for the families of the children who were murdered. We wanted to know the answers to the question that the media used to ask after a school shooting. How could this have happened?

“This was the most avoidable mass murder in American history, enabled by a sheriff’s office and a school district characterized by administrative incompetence so staggering and moral corruption so deep that it took the Sun-Sentinel the better part of the year to uncover it all. But long after the national media moved on to the next controversy, local reporters here kept at it.’’

The letter then linked to several articles written by the Sun-Sentinel. Brittany Wallman, one of the Sun-Sentinel reporters who has covered the Parkland shootings, tweeted:

“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.’’

Trump vs. the media

In this Nov. 29, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Trump is marking what’s expected to be a busy day for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe by launching a Twitter broadside against the prosecutor (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Since announcing his candidacy for president and up until Wednesday, President Donald Trump had sent 1,339 tweets about the media that were considered “critical, insinuating, condemning or threatening.’’ All that is according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Since becoming president, according to CPJ, Trump has tweeted more than 5,400 times to his nearly 58 million followers and 11 percent of those tweets either “insulted or criticized journalists and outlets, or condemned or denigrated the news media as a whole.’’

That led the CPJ’s North America program to create a database to track Trump’s tweets that mention the media in a negative tone.

A couple of interesting tidbits in the CPJ report. One, the term “fake news’’ didn’t appear in a Trump tweet until December 2016, which was after he was elected. But since becoming president, more than half of his negative tweets about the media have included the term “fake news.’’ The other interesting item: Trump didn’t use the term “enemy of the people’’ until February 17, 2017.

Support local journalism

This is a terrific piece by Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan. A reader of the San Jose Mercury News reached out to her with a question: keep subscribing to the “Merc’’ to support local journalism or stop subscribing because he doesn’t want his money going to an ownership group (Digital First Media) that he thinks cares more about profits than journalism? It also doesn’t help that the Mercury News, because of budget cuts and bad deadlines, is no longer the paper it used to be. (Unfortunately, that can be said about most papers.)

The reader, Jeffrey Miller, told the Post, “The reality is that the only reason I keep my Mercury News subscription is out of guilt.’’

Sullivan encouraged Miller to keep his subscription in a column well worth your time.

Add another

Add former Republican congressman Trey Gowdy to the growing list of recently-departed politicians to make the jump to television. The former South Carolina representative is joining Fox News.

He joins a list of recent hires that includes former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill (NBC, MSNBC), former Ohio governor John Kasich (CNN), former Utah congresswoman Mia Love (MSNBC), former Tallahassee mayor and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (CNN) and former Arizona senator Jeff Flake (CBS).

It’s hard to tell if television is a better post-career job for politicians or athletes.

The War Within

Donations from McClatchy readers and viewers around the country will help pay off more than $5 million in medical bills owed by servicemembers, veterans and their families. Teaming up with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys bundles of debt at a steep discount and forgives it, McClatchy’s War Within Initiative fundraising drive across print, digital, video and social platforms sparked donors in the local news company’s 30 markets to donate.

“We are deeply grateful to our viewers and readers for their enthusiastic and generous response to the campaign,’’ Craig Forman, president and CEO of McClatchy, said in a statement.

The fundraising portion of the War Within Initiative culminates with the final episode of a 10-part documentary series, “The War Within,” which publishes on Facebook Watch. The series follows three Afghanistan war veterans struggling with PTSD and other challenges, such as reintegration.

Roker rips Kentucky governor

Al Roker (Photo by Evan Agostini/ Invision/AP)

NBC meteorologist Al Roker blasted Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, calling him a “nitwit’’ after Bevin said Americans are getting soft for canceling school in some spots because of cold weather. Bevin’s comments came during a radio interview in Louisville, where temperatures Wednesday fell to single digits and wind chills were below zero.

Roker first questioned the governor’s statements, saying kids aren’t “hearty explorers,’’ and then went after the governor again on MSNBC, saying, “This nitwit governor in Kentucky saying we’re weak. These are kids who are going to be in sub-zero wind-chills. Cancel school. Stop it.’’

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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