Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Stories at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Patriot-News Win Pulitzer Prizes

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s remarkable series on the dangerous climate of violence in the city’s public schools was rewarded Monday with the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

The higher education beat also yielded a Pulitzer this year. Sara Ganim and the Patriot-News staff won the local reporting prize for coverage of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State. Ganim’s dogged coverage outshone national media outlets that were late to jump on the story.

(California Watch’s “On Shaky Ground” series examining shortfalls in school construction, which made the short list for the local reporting prize, is also worth a read.)

The time and resources the Inquirer devoted to its year-long project were substantial. Five reporters spent months visiting campuses, conducting hundreds of interviews, and building a comprehensive database of campus crime statistics.

The resulting seven-part series, “Assault on Learning,” was nothing short of astonishing. More than 4,000 Philadelphia teachers had been assaulted over a five-year period. Violent behavior among students started as early as kindergarten. Efforts to curb violence were fragmented, and the more successful initiatives were not replicated on a wider scale. School communities were struggling to reclaim their campuses.

As the Pulitzer citation points out, the series used “powerful print narratives and videos to illuminate crimes committed by children against children and to stir reforms to improve safety for teachers and students.”

At a time when newsroom resources are shrinking across the country — including in Philadelphia –the Inquirer’s Pulitzer win is a reminder of just how many important stories are waiting to be told, particularly when it comes to the education beat.


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