This year’s Pulitzers are a reminder why local news matters all the time, not just in a crisis

Local journalism uncovers wrong doing while the rest of us are living our lives

May 7, 2020

This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here

On Monday, the Pulitzer Prizes offered a peek into the past — not the distant past, but, like, the last year past.

Remember 2019?

Maybe not. It’s hard right now to even remember what day it is. But the winners and finalists of the Pulitzers were a reminder of the power of journalism in general and the power of local journalism in particular.

Out of 15 awards, local news won six and had 10 finalists, including:

  • The Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News with work that brought local neglect to light and “spurred an influx of money and legislative changes.”
  • The (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal with coverage of the governor’s last-minute pardons, “showing how the process was marked by opacity, racial disparities and violations of legal norms.”
  • The Baltimore Sun with reporting on Baltimore’s mayor and her “lucrative, undisclosed financial relationship” between her and a public hospital system.
  • The Seattle Times (in the national category, but c’mon, this was built on local reporting) with its coverage of what went wrong with the Boeing 737 Max.
  • The Los Angeles Times “for work demonstrating extraordinary community service by a critic, applying his expertise and enterprise to critique a proposed overhaul of the LA County Museum of Art and its effect on the institution’s mission.”
  • And the Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press “for editorials that exposed how pre-trial inmates died horrific deaths in a small Texas county jail — reflecting a rising trend across the state — and courageously took on the local sheriff and judicial establishment, which tried to cover up these needless tragedies.”

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We’re living in a crisis now. It’s one that has sped up the decline of many local newsrooms while simultaneously counting on their work. But this Pulitzer-winning work is a message in a bottle from the past — a reminder that local journalism matters all the time, not just when the world is scary and awful.

It’s a reminder that local news isn’t just worth supporting and protecting because it’s serving us in these ongoing life-and-death times, but that local journalists and newsrooms are there, poking around the dark corners of government, politics, police, industry and community, when the rest of us are living our lives.

 

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org and writes a weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news. You can subscribe here. Kristen can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare.