Friday, April 10, 2015

POST AND COURIER DISTINGUISHES ITSELF WITH ITS COVERAGE OF WALTER SCOTT SHOOTING

The April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott Jr. by police officer Michael T. Slager in North Charleston, S.C., has captured the attention of the nation and the world since a bystander's video of the tragic incident surfaced.

As is so often the case when local incidents like this go national and international, print and electronic journalists from all over the world have descended on the Charleston area, swooping in to pick up on a sensationally horrendous event. All that most people outside of South Carolina -- and, more specifically, outside the Charleston metropolitan area -- probably have read or seen in the way of coverage of this story has been by these "outside" media outlets.

Unfortunately, what those outside of South Carolina have not seen is the coverage of the incident being provided by Charleston's daily newspaper, The Post and Courier, and that is truly a shame because the newspaper's coverage of this tragedy has, thus far, been an excellent example of American journalism at its finest.

Here are two of The Post and Courier's front pages dealing with the incident. The first is from Wednesday, April 8, the morning following Officer Slager was arrest on murder charges in connection with Scott's death and after prosecutors and police officials had carefully gone over the bystander's video of the shooting. The second is from this morning, April 10, and focuses on the national impact of this case in the wake of numerous other incidents -- such as the shooting death on August 9, 2014, of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. -- in which white police officers have shot and killed African-American "suspects."


To say the very least, The Post and Courier's coverage has been riveting, but that's almost automatic with an an event this sensational. It's the sort of incident that virtually any daily newspaper worth its salt should be able to cover well.

However, The Post and Courier's coverage has been so much more than just good. It has been exhaustive and exemplary.

Under the leadership of Editor Mitch Pugh -- who I think has been, since taking over the paper a little over two years ago, proving himself to be one of the nation's finest young newspaper editors -- The Post and Courier has been providing the sort of thorough, in-depth coverage that no national medium could hope to equal, covering every possible angle and nuance of this incident which is so tragic on virtually every level.

The paper, as should be the case for every local paper covering a local indicent that becomes a national story, has remained far out in front of every new development. It has produced a multitude of stories, every one of them well-balanced, unbiased, and fair and all of them well-written, well-edited and impossible to not read.

Beyond that, the coverage has also been courageous. I say this as someone who served for more than three years as the editor of a South Carolina daily newspaper -- The Morning News in Florence, S.C. -- and is well aware of the racial divide that still very much exists in the state where the American Civil War began.

From my own experiences as the editor of newspapers both in South Carolina and Mississippi, I am pretty certain that Pugh and his staff likely are being deluged daily with calls, letters, emails, Facebook post and Tweets -- many of which go well beyond just ugly -- from angry members of both the white and black communities alleging that the coverage has been unfair to one side or the other. That's what happens when a newspaper engages in the straightforward, evenhanded and vital coverage that has so far been the hallmark of The Post and Courier's handling of this story.

For those truly interested in following what I am sure will continue to be the best coverage available of this major story, I highly recommend that you do yourself a favor and go to The Post and Courier's website: http://www.postandcourier.com.

My hat's off to Editor Mitch Pugh and his entire news staff. After nearly a week of hard work covering this story, they must all be running on raw adrenalin, but it's clear from their stories, photos and page designs that neither their minds nor their desire to give the community they service the best possible coverage have been fogged by the doubtlessly long hours and effort they are putting in. In my estimation, what they have done so far should be a worthy contender for a local reporting or even possibly a public service -- depending on how their coverage continues to progress once the current furor dies down -- Pulitzer Prize.

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NOTE: For the sake of transparency, let me say that although Mitch Pugh and I are Facebook friends and he worked for a while at the State Journal-Register, in Springfield, Ill., but after I left my position as editor there, we have never actually met. However, his wife, Peri Gonulsen Pugh, who is originally from Springfield, is the daughter of long-time family friends Aydin Gonulsen and Mimi Gonulsen. She even served for a summer as a nanny for our twin daughters. None of that, however, comes into play in my admiration for the job that Mitch and his staff are doing with this story.


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