Who, what, where, when, why and most importantly how did The Seattle Times win a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for "Breaking News" for its coverage of the Lakewood police shootings and the Maurice Clemmons manhunt?
Those questions were asked and well-answered at the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce first Executive Speaker Series event, "Anatomy of a Pulitzer Prize" on Tuesday (June 22) at The Westin. (The Washington News Council was a "promotional partner" for the luncheon, along with the Public Relations Society of America and The Times.)
Lori Matsukawa, longtime KING-5 TV anchor, moderated the all-Times panel: Executive Editor David Boardman, and Managing Editors Suki Dardarian and Kathy Best, who oversaw the coverage. When Matsukawa asked Boardman why they won the Pulitzer, he replied: "First of all, I want to say this belongs to all of you. We want the whole community to share in this prize."
Indeed, this was an unprecedented example of a newspaper networking with citizens in what some call the new news ecosystem. No newspaper has ever made such extensive use of the web to cover a breaking news story. That's why this Pulitzer was so richly deserved.
Dardarian noted that the shootings happened on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, when only one reporter and one editor were in The Times' newsroom. "Within a few hours, the newsroom was full," she said. Before long, they were "on the front lines."
Boardman said The Times "got a four-to-five-hour jump on every other news organization" because reporter Jennifer Sullivan, working from her sickbed, identified Maurice Clemmons as the shooter through her sources. When The Times reported that, Dardarian said, she got a call from a police spokesman saying "we got it wrong That got my adrenaline going." The Times checked again, and confirmed it was Clemmons. Later, the police confirmed on television that The Times was right, Dardarian said.
The Times created a "#washooting" hashtag on Twitter and the digital flood began. They invited citizens to contribute tips, photos and videos, using Google Wave and other online sources.
They did "cutting-edge use of all these new tools," Boardman said, using their "quick-twitch muscles." Boardman, who had not used Twitter much before, tweeted for 15 straight hours.
"The Seattle Times jumped into digital news with both feet," Matsukawa said, noting that many bloggers and dot-commers were "shocked" that The Seattle Times could become so "digitally nimble" in such a short time.