Just last week, I had lunch with the publisher and editor of the Bristol Herald Courier. They were already excited about the accolades they had received for their investigation into how a state board allowed the energy industry to funnel into an unaudited escrow fund tens of millions of dollars in royalties owed to people in one of the poorest regions of the state. This paper is staking its future on quality investigative journalism. A bold move for a paper with 7 reporters and a coverage area about the size of Connecticut. So when I read this lead sentence on the AP today, it was extra special.
With only seven reporters on the Bristol Herald Courier’s staff, two bottles of cheap champagne were plenty to toast the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize for public service reporting on Monday.
The Media General newspaper with a circulation of 33,000 received journalism’s highest award for the reporting of Daniel Gilbert on the mismanagement of natural gas royalties owed to landowners in Virginia.
“It’s a hell of an honor,” Gilbert, 28, said moments after learning of the newspaper’s award. “It underscores the importance of public service reporting, especially in rural areas.”
Editor J. Todd Foster bought the champagne across the street at Food City before the announcement and stuck the bottles in the trunk of his car. He figured he could celebrate a Pulitzer or console himself later if the newspaper didn’t win for the celebrated series.
“I’m doing great now,” said Foster, who also delivered a cake to the newsroom for the celebration.
Gilbert spent part of 13 months reporting the complex story while handling daily assignments as one of seven staff writers at the paper.
Editor J. Todd Foster, last week, told me the reporting by Gilbert received the top prize for newspapers under 100,000 circulation in an Investigative Reporters and Editors contest. Foster is a member of the IRE group.
The rest of the winners on next page: Continue reading “Amazing story behind small market newspaper winning Pulitzer”