Broward News

Parkland Parents Call for Pulitzer for Sun Sentinel's Coverage of School Shooting

Andrew Pollack
Andrew Pollack Photo by Ian Witlen /
In the year since Nikolas Cruz shot dead 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel has pushed for answers. But the Broward County School District has stonewalled the newspaper's public records requests, ridiculed one of its reporters as "smelly" and "skanky," and tried to have two more of its journalists jailed.

At least so far, partially as a result of prodigious reporting and editorializing, all the top brass at the Sheriff's Department has been removed and state gun laws have been changed — by formerly NRA-backed Republicans.

Now, parents of two children who were killed at the Parkland school are calling for the newspaper to be awarded journalism's top honor, the Pulitzer Prize. In an open letter published Wednesday on the website Real Clear Education, Andrew Pollack and Ryan Petty wrote that the Sun-Sentinel's work has revealed the full story behind the tragedy, uncovering how it was allowed to happen.

"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 the uncover it all," the parents wrote to the leadership of the Pulitzer Prize committee.  "But long after the national media moved on to the next controversy, local reporters here kept at it."
click to enlarge Meadow's death spurred her father to action. - COURTESY OF ANDREW POLLACK
Meadow's death spurred her father to action.
Courtesy of Andrew Pollack
Pollack's 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, and Petty's 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, were among the students and staff members killed during the February 14, 2018, massacre. In the months since, the fathers have become prominent school safety advocates. Pollack has emerged as the face of the conservative post-Parkland movement, while Petty ran for the school board, narrowly losing in the primary to incumbent Donna Korn.

In their letter, the two parents list a few examples of stories the Sun-Sentinel broke. There's the paper's exposé on the "culture of leniency" that allowed students such as Cruz to fall between the cracks. There was the investigation into schools' failure to report on-campus crimes to the state. Then there was the story on the district's efforts to mask the issues that led to the shooting.

"The work by the Sun-Sentinel’s reporters reminds us of what journalism can and should be, and also what is tragically being lost as local newspapers downsize and the news media is increasingly dominated by a clickbait competition tied to national flashpoint issues of the week," wrote Pollack and Petty.

Winners of the Pulitzer Prize are announced on April 16 of each year. The Sun-Sentinel has won once before, for its 2012 investigation into speeding cops. 
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas