Amy Driscoll poked around Virginia Key, peered through windows at an enclosed Tequesta archaeological site, chatted with folks in Coconut Grove, worked the phones — and won a Pulitzer Prize.
In between, Driscoll, the Herald’s deputy editorial page editor, meticulously constructed, paragraph by paragraph, a five-part indictment of government’s failure to follow through on its pledges to taxpayers — banking on our short memories and sense of powerlessness.
Her series, “Broken Promises” so powerfully told stories of how for decades Miamians have been hornswoggled that an exacting jury of editors and writers gave it journalism’s highest honor last week.
Driscoll’s work checked all the boxes of opinion journalism: “The test of excellence being clearness of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction, using any available journalistic tool.”
Driscoll’s most useful journalistic tools were a long memory and a moral sense of accountability denied.
“I thought about this as a person who’s been living here for a long time,” Driscoll told me. “There were so many long-term promises that have not been kept — and they should be. Taxpayers made decisions in their lives based on these things.”
She’s right. Almost 40 years ago, Black residents in Northwest Miami-Dade were coaxed into supporting Metrorail because, they were told, the North Corridor extension through the area would be transformative. Metrorail got their votes, but as Driscoll made clear, those residents “have been shafted for so long, children have been born, grown up and had children of their own. The Metrorail extension isn’t just late. It’s a generation or two late.”
A “mere” 26 years ago, Miami Heat honchos wanted an arena on the bay and threw in the promise of building a waterfront park with million-dollar views as a sweetener. Miami-Dade voters bit. The Heat got the arena (and might get the championship this year), but the park for the people? Nope.
Driscoll highlighted, too, the absence of economic vitality pledged for the historic West Grove; the lack of action to truly preserve the Miami Circle and, also, to turn Virginia Key into a jewel of a destination park.
A Pulitzer Prize for stellar journalism is not just a prestigious award. It’s validation — that this is journalism of particularly high value, that it should be read — must be read — that it has accomplished its mission of keeping people informed, engaged and, if need be, outraged. And, as important, holding government leaders accountable for their negligence. Often it’s a call to action.
“This all contributes to the hollowness of civic life, disenchantment that degrades the quality of life for everybody,” Driscoll said.
This latest Pulitzer is the Miami Herald’s 24th such validation. In 2022, the Herald won the prize for its barnstorming, all-hands-on-deck reporting — including deep-dive investigative analyses — of the 2021 collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.
I think these honors say something else: that journalists’ drive, commitment and diligence that go into their prize-winning work are also present, day after day, in the stories and editorials and columns and photo and videos and podcasts that might never come before a panel of jurors looking to bestow an award.
It’s enough that they come before our readers, the “jurors” we must strive the most to impress.
Nancy Ancrum is editorial page editor.
Read the ‘Broken Promises’ series
WEST COCONUT GROVE: Miami’s erasing its Black history one bungalow at a time. Who will stop it?
METRORAIL EXTENSION: Black residents in Northwest Dade have waited 30+ years for Metrorail. Surprised?
CITY’S INDIGENOUS HISTORY: Miami’s ancient history still not on display. One is a dog park