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Complete Scans of "What Went Wrong": The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Special Section of the Miami Herald, December 20, 1992

I've always been a Pulitzer wonk. I pay attention as the awards are given each year. I think they say something about who we are and what we value. They're sort of like typefaces and hairstyles, placing ourselves in context, in a moving timeline. Hopefully done in the moment, w/o historical self-consciousness.

On the poetry side, one of my earliest obsessive-compulsive projects was the highly annotated Bibliography of American Poetry Told Through The Pulitzer Prize.

On the news side, I very clearly remember when the Miami Herald won a Pulitzer in 1993. It combined two of my obsessions -- hurricanes and wonky attention to details.

The Miami Herald published a 16-page special report that examined weather records, building inspection reports, and damaged buildings. The Pulitzer committee noted how their reporting showed how "lax zoning, inspection and building codes had contributed to the destruction". They won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for this reporting.

When I was in Charlotte earlier this year working with government officials for EveryBlock (talking about data that includes building permit inspections and certificates of occupancy), I saw a really cool presentation by Ted Mellnik, the Database Editor of the Charlotte Observer. He is responsible for decades of great computer-assisted reporting, including the excellent Sold a Nightmare series on the foreclosure crisis.

He basically gave a history lesson on what I do for a living. He told us about the seminal book, Precision Journalism by Philip Meyer. He also spoke at length about the work of Stephen Doig and the Miami Herald's 1993 Pulitzer for post-Hurricane Andrew database work.

I searched around, looking for documentation of the series, which was called "What Went Wrong" -- i.e. why the hell was there so much destruction. I couldn't find anything. I searched further after the earthquake in China, as I was writing a post about Huang Qi, the journalist who was working on building safety standards for schools when he was arrested. Still couldn't find any text or images from the series.

I was able to get an original copy of the 16-page special section insert of the series as it appeared that day. Here they are, along with closeups on all images, charts, and illustrations. It also includes most of the text for most of the articles in the series. Here's the credits -- they deserve a lot of it.

Thank you James Savage, Patterson Clark, Dan Clifford, Stephen K. Doig, Luis Feldstein Soto, Don Finefrock, Lisa Getter, Daryl Kannberg, Erica Johnston, John Pancake, Randy Stano, Juan Lopez, Al Diaz, Tim Chapman, Claudia Liataud, Bob Gilley, and Paul Mull. Thank you very much.

All of this material is Copyright 1992 Miami Herald.

Link: What Went Wrong: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Special Section of the Miami Herald, December 20, 1992


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Daniel X. O'Neil: Chicago-based writer and internet developer. I am a co-founder of and the People Person for EveryBlock, a site that pulls together local news and public information. I run dozens of personal projects and websites for clients, and also own half of a poetry book company.


EveryBlock: A news feed for your block.
CTA Tweet: Unofficial Twitter tracker for the Chicago Transit Authority.
CityPayments: Database of all vendors, contracts, and payments that have been posted by the municipal government of the City of Chicago
Wesley Willis Art: Site dedicated to the fact that Wesley Willis was an artist.
Wide Right Turn: An incomplete look at the role of variation in a capitalist society.


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