Pulitzer Prize Winners in South Carolina: Reporting
From the Jazz Age to the Digital Age: Pulitzer Prize Winners in South Carolina Celebrating Pulitzer Public Service Journalism with the Charleston Post and Courier.
Natalie Caula-Hauff, Jennifer Berry Hawes, and Glenn Smith of the Charleston Post and Courier discuss the series, Till Death Do Us Part, published in August 2014. The series won the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service Journalism in 2015.
The team researched the problem of domestic violence in South Carolina, and discovered the enormity of the problem, and the fact that the story has been in our headlines for the past 15 years, yet little has been done to “stem the carnage.” As they and Doug Pardue, also of the Post and Courier and a member of the team who served on the project, researched the number of women killed, and looked into the culture, patterns, what role religion might play, and what areas of the state were most impacted, they began recording the data in a database.
They first looked at court cases, and began to record patterns, the bills that had come up in the State House, and they began to ask questions about why the bills were not passed. They looked at the culture of the state, religion, and why women stay in these relationships. A big factor was that the women love these men and believe that they will change. Fear also plays a role. In addition, the sentences are minimal and men could plea bargain and get a reduced sentence, or the cases were being dismissed. There was a maximum penalty of 30 days for a first offense. Pastors were asked how many times they’ve discussed domestic violence in their churches. Very few said there was a problem in their own church.
As each case was entered into the database, they began to look into patterns that were applicable to each. A bill was proposed that would increase penalties and take gun ownership rights from offenders. The legislature convened in January and by June, a bill had passed and signed by the Governor. Governor Haley also appointed a task force that has been looking at a large number of issues involved, and there have been some requests for additional prosecutors to help to address the docket overload. That remains a question.
The reporters expressed great satisfaction in the impact that journalists can have on our society, as demonstrated by this project.