Speaking at the award ceremony at Columbia University, the administrator of the awards, Dana Canedy, addressed the work of the students in the wake of the mass shooting at their school in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018.
“I want to break with tradition and offer my sincere admiration for an entry that did not win, but that should give us all hope for the future of journalism in this great democracy, ” Canedy said, according to the New York Times. The Eagle Eye did not win a Pulitzer, but it was the first organization named by Canedy during the awards.
“These budding journalists remind us of the media’s unwavering commitment to bearing witness, even in the most wrenching of circumstances,” Canedy continued, “in service to a nation whose very existence depends on a free and dedicated press.”
One of The Eagle Eye’s co-editors-in-chief, Hannah Kapoor, told the Times that the students knew their entry was “a long shot.” But Kapoor said that the work they did covering the shooting — including producing obituaries for all 17 people killed — was “the most newsworthy work we’ve done and probably ever will do.”
Kapoor was part of the student team that assembled the entry — turning it in just two days before it was due in January. Despite not receiving the award, members of The Eagle Eye were grateful for student journalism to be acknowledged.
“I was very happy that they took us seriously,” Dara Rosen, 17, told the Times. She is a copy editor for the paper. “It’s really difficult, but at the same time, really empowering to be able to write, from an insider’s perspective, what your school is going through and what is happening.”
Three of the Pulitzers awarded this year were for coverage of mass shootings, according to NPR: the Sun Sentinel, for coverage of the Parkland shooting; the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for its coverage of the mass shooting in the Tree of Life synagogue; and the Capital Gazette in Annapolis for its coverage of the shooting that occurred in its own newsroom.
“It was actually a very competitive entry,” Canedy said of The Eagle Eye’s submission. “I was so inspired by what they did. They’re the future. We’re in good hands with young people like this.”