Journalism, as an industry, has had a rough time since President Donald Trump took office. The major players have constantly had to defend themselves against allegations of “fake news,” a label that to a degree is self-inflicted, and which has filtered down to local newspapers. Meanwhile, publishers and editors continue to struggle with tectonic shifts within the industry, including declining subscriptions, niche competition from social media and internet sources and, of late, a boost in the price of imported newsprint, a result of Trump’s tariffs.
Yet today the newspaper industry will take a break from the bad news and relish its best work by announcing the winners of its top honors — the Pulitzer Prizes.
As the eponymous title suggests, the awards were the brainchild of Joseph Pulitzer, owner and publisher of the New York World and the St Louis Post-Dispatch. During his career, Pulitzer, who died in 1911, took on titans in industry and government. But arguably he was best known for the practice of “yellow journalism,” a mix of news, scandal and gossip that sought to incite as much as it sought to inform. Maybe in an attempt to overcome his reputation as a purveyor of the “fake news” of his day, Pulitzer set up an endowment that created both the renowned school of journalism at Columbia University in 1912 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1917.
Awards, however, don’t just go to journalists. Today, Pulitzers will be handed out to authors of fiction, history, drama, biography, poetry and even music. "I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism,” Pulitzer once said, “regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people” — and “to help those already engaged in the profession to acquire the highest moral and intellectual training."
GARLAND: We don’t know about moral development, but a new grant should help Polk State College stimulate the intellectual development of some students in its education program. The college recently received $67,000 from Steelcase Education, a Michigan-based furniture company, to redesign and outfit a classroom to promote “active learning.” Polk State was one of just 16 winners from more than 1,000 grant applicants nationwide. Way to go.
GIG: As for some who struggle with a new education wrinkle, we have students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Two weeks ago they returned to school for the first time since the Valentine’s Day massacre that took the lives of 17 of their classmates and faculty. One new safety requirement was for all students to use a clear backpack. Many Douglas High students mocked the change, complained that it somehow undermined their First Amendment rights and moaned that their school had turned into a “prison.” We gig those who griped about the backpacks. While these students deserve credit for sparking a national conversation about school safety and changes in our gun laws, despite their desire to strip other Americans of their Second Amendment rights, we don’t fault school administrators for taking this step to try to protect their students.
GARLAND: It’s difficult to imagine a sporting event more grueling than the Ironman 70.3 (which stands for miles) triathalon, which was held last weekend in Haines City. We applaud anyone who finished the race, but especially Diana Woolf, a 46-year-old firefighter from outside Cleveland. She completed, by walking, the 13.1-mile running portion of the race in full firefighter regalia to generate funding and awareness for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and to call attention to the need to help first-responders dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, from which she suffers. We applaud her stamina and her causes.
GARLAND: We salute the Florida Sheriffs Ranches and Polk Sheriff’s Charities for their work to establish the Scholarship House in Bartow. The facility will house 10 people who graduate from the Sheriffs Ranches residential program for needy children or from foster care and who go on to vocational training or community college. In addition to providing these young adults a place to live, a full-time staffer will help coach them in life skills. The goal, said Bill Frye, CEO of the Florida Youth Ranches charity, is to surpass the 10 percent national average of such people who finish local college or vocational school.
GARLAND: Speaking of sheriffs, we applaud Sheriff Grady Judd and his investigators. Judd recently vowed he would nab the burglar who recently swiped, among other things, an urn containing the ashes of the late Buddy Newsome, a 28-year veteran of the Lakeland Police Department who died in 2015. Daniel Antonio Nolasco Cardona, a 27-year-old from Honduras in the country on a tourist visa, was arrested in Miami after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and authorities in nine counties, including Polk, hunted him for a rash of burglaries. We had previously gigged Cardona before his identity was known for stealing the ashes. Now we say well done, Sheriff Judd and team, for recovering them and bringing peace of mind to Newsome’s widow, Michele.