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Robert Runcie
Robert Runcie
Photo by Emilee McGovern

Despite the Pulitzer, Former Sun-Sentinel Publisher Disagrees With Paper's Runcie Criticism

On Tuesday, May 30, the Sun Sentinel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service — the highest honor in journalism — for its coverage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Valentine's Day 2018 shooting and its aftermath. The committee cited the newspaper "for exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage."

Among other things, the Sentinel uncovered mistakes by the Broward County School District in dealing with troubled teen Nikolas Cruz prior to the shooting. After months of reporting, the paper's editorial board advocated for the removal of Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

"We’ve all seen the commission’s damning report on the district’s safety failures," the article reads. "We have come to believe that keeping him as superintendent is not in the best interests of the district or the kids."

But not everyone agreed with that suggestion. One surprise opponent of the Dump Runcie movement: Howard Greenberg, who worked at the newspaper from 1984 to 2016 and was publisher from 2007 to 2016.

Reached by phone, Greenberg tells New Times, "I was in favor of Runcie. When you sit and listen to him, they did an amazing job in response to the shooting. He is getting calls from other cities asking for advice."

Before joining the Sentinel in 1984 as a circulation sales and marketing manager, Greenberg held circulation positions at the Miami Herald and Denver Post. From 2005 to 2007, Greenberg was the senior vice president and general manager of the Sun-Sentinel Company. Then, in 2007, he became publisher and CEO, a position he would hold until his retirement in September 2016. He also served as the CEO and publisher for the Orlando Sentinel. After leaving the Sentinel, Greenberg launched The Media Guy, a media waste identification and investment firm.

His position was first disclosed in a post on BrowardBeat by former Sentinel columnist Buddy Nevins. The post quoted an email Greenberg had sent to Governor Ron DeSantis on February 11 on behalf of the Broward Workshop, a business organization. "I am well aware of what lengths a newspaper, or newspapers will go in order to win journalistic awards, up to and including a Pulitzer Prize," Greenberg writes. "I hope you will take the time to look past all that and give a fair and impartial review of Superintendent Runcie's accomplishments."

He urged the governor "to review his incredible accomplishments over the last eight years, including the security put in place in the Broward School System since the Stoneman Douglas tragedy."

Greenberg says he wasn't criticizing the Sentinel's coverage, but that he disagreed with the paper's stance against the superintendent. He says he doesn't want Runcie to suffer a fate similar to that of former Sheriff Scott Israel, who DeSantis removed from office after harsh criticism of the Broward Sheriff's Office's response to the Parkland shooting.

"I was thrilled when they won the Pulitzer," Greenberg says. "They earned it, but let's not confuse Parkland with maintaining superintendent Runcie. We —The Broward Workshop — got behind Robert Runcie. We wrote to the governor not to do to Runcie what he did to the sheriff."

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