Reporters M.L. Elrick and Jim Shaefer from the Detroit Free Press won journalism’s highest honor this week, the Pulitzer Prize, for their coverage of the text message scandal, which led to the resignation and felony conviction of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. When I heard the news, I couldn’t help but think how incredible this honor is for the reporters themselves, the newspaper and the city of Detroit. The awards were first presented in 1918…what deep history to be a part of.
Watching this video of the reporters hovering around their desks in the Free Press newsroom as the winners were announced literally gave me chills. I couldn’t help but remember sitting in a college journalism class hearing the phrase “journalists serve as the watchdog of society.” Elrick and Shaefer’s reporting about the scandal that outraged and gripped the metro Detroit region was both long and tedious. It took unimaginable persistence. They (along with millions of other journalists who tell stories to educate the public daily) proved that great journalism is irreplaceable. Although the Kilpatrick story itself left little to celebrate, their story changed the course of a community forever. They certainly served as the public’s watchdog. In today’s 24/7 society where news is defined by some as “whatever I want it to be,” some things have the ability to stand the test of time. Telling a truthful story rich with facts that educate the public and bring justice should be one of them.