Sun wins Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing

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When Monday's Pulitzer Prize winners were announced, the small market Sun newspapers emerged from the giants to capture a first place for Editorial Writing.

The Sun newspapers, which cover Charlotte and Sarasota counties, beat out the New York Times, Boston Globe and other industry leaders for Editorial Writing in its coverage of the state prison system and the aftermath of guards killing inmate Matthew Walker at the Charlotte Correctional Institution south of Punta Gorda.

The following column, written by David Dunn-Rankin, president of Sun Coast Media Group, honors both the newspaper's staff and the mission that his father set for the papers.

A Pulitzer For Our Community

David Dunn-Rankin
Bittersweet.  This weekend, the founder of our company, Derek Dunn-Rankin, passed away.  Monday, his newspaper, this newspaper, won the Pulitzer Prize.

If Derek were here, he would tell you that winning a Pulitzer was an honor because it celebrates the work of our news team.  If Derek were here, he would also tell you that we aren't in business to win Pulitzers.  We have a more important mission.

We are here because we believe in helping our communities be a better place to live.  It's that simple.

For Derek, making sure the local beauty shop had customers walking in their door, was a prize that made him smile.  Making sure the local restaurant could compete effectively against the chain restaurants, was part of his life's mission.

He understood that the corner store is the cornerstone of a community.  If we strive to be America's Best Community Newspaper, we must help our local entrepreneurs succeed.  A business that is still in business because we helped them be successful was a prize Derek cherished as much as any editorial award.

He also understood that part of making a community a better place is to lift up the good news.  Celebrate the nonprofits and acts of kindness.  There are hundreds of names and faces in our paper each week because Derek believed a community is made special by those who give back.

Derek also believed that our mission included doing spade work.  Digging into complicated and sometimes uncomfortable issues.  Our series of stories, editorial cartoons, and editorials on the awful situation at the Charlotte Correctional Institute, came from a sense of mission, rather than an attempt to win a Pulitzer.

Late this Fall, I brought together the news team that had worked so hard on covering the prison scandal.  I told them that I wanted to enter their work in the Pulitzer competition.  With over 3,000 Pulitzer submissions in a year, the odds of winning were unlikely, but we wanted to honor the work, and to honor the mission of the paper – making our community a better place.

I wanted Adam Kreeger, Phil Fernandez, Ron Bates, Steve Baumann, Chris Porter and John Hackworth to be able to tell their children and grandchildren that the company they worked for thought their work so important they had it nominated for a Pulitzer.  Given the long odds, no one was as surprised as I was when the paper was actually awarded the Pulitzer.

Bittersweet.  We win the Pulitzer the day after Derek is found dead.  If he were here, he would tell you that this paper has received a gift.  But he wouldn't be talking about the Pulitzer.  He would be talking about you.

Without smart, challenging, and supportive readers, we would not be striving every day to be America's Best Community Newspaper. Without the support of our advertisers, we couldn't invest in thoughtful in-depth news.  Derek would want to thank you all for supporting us in our mission.

Derek's not here, but the culture he created is, and we are grateful for our employees, readers and advertisers who join us in that mission.

If Dad were here, he would tell you that the Pulitzer prize belongs to you too.  I agree.


Read more from this column at Poynter.org

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