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Salt Lake Tribune wins Pulitzer Prize for campus sex assault reports

Salt Lake Tribune wins Pulitzer Prize for campus sex assault reports

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, File)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Tribune was awarded Monday the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for its reporting on rape on Utah college campuses.

Pulitzer Prize judges described the entry as “a string of vivid reports revealing the perverse, punitive and cruel treatment given to sexual assault victims at Brigham Young University, one of Utah’s most powerful institutions.”

Finalists in the local reporting category included the Boston Globe and the New York Times.

Deputy Editor Tim Fitzpatrick said he monitored the webcast of the award ceremony Monday, which was "painfully slow," he said, half-joking.

When the Salt Lake Tribune was announced as winner of the local reporting award, the newsroom reacted with "I think you could describe it as shock. There was maybe a little bit of yelling but not total mayhem. The champagne showed up, but we weren't pouring it on each other, we were toasting. It wasn't complete mayhem, and maybe that's kind of surprising."

The last time the Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize, Fitzpatrick's grandfather was publisher and Fitzpatrick, who will turn 60 later this year, was a few months from being born.

"There's nobody in this newsroom certainly who was around then or had any sense of that. Most people go through this business and do very well and do great things without ever touching a Pulitzer, so to have this happen is pretty exciting," he said.

The Tribune reported on BYU's practice of opening honor code investigations into students who reported they were victims of sexual assault and explored sexual assault complaints at Utah State University.

The reports prompted both universities to revise their policies and practices.

Salt Lake Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce, who was on the East Coast visiting prospective colleges with her son as the award was announced, said, "It's really gratifying to be recognized for this work."

The newspaper staff "kept digging because of the courage of so many men and women who came forward with their stories and knew that things had to change at the institutional level. Status quo wasn't going to help these survivors. Things need to change.

"That's why they kept digging into records and searching for answers from college administrators. I'm really proud of their tenacity and persistence in finding justice for a lot of these young women and men," Napier-Pearce said.

Fitzpatrick added, "This is one of those cases where the people we interviewed are the ones who made this happen. They had to be ready to tell their stories, they had to be willing because otherwise this is a story that just wouldn't have been told."

This was the third time a Utah newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize.

The Salt Lake Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for its coverage of two airliners that crashed over the Grand Canyon.

The Deseret News won the coveted prize in 1962, also for local reporting. Robert D. “Bob” Mullins was honored for his story of a murder and kidnapping at Dead Horse Point.

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