Pulitzer Prize for W&L Alum John Dahlburg '75
A series of investigative stories edited by John Dahlburg, of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1975, in the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for public service journalism on Monday.
John is the editor in charge of the Sun Sentinel’s investigation unit, which produced the series, Above the Law: Speeding Cops. It resulted from a three-month investigation after an off-duty Miami police officer was pulled over for driving 120 mph.
An investigative reporter, Sally Kestin, and a database specialist, John Maines, gathered data from toll booths to calculate officers’ speeds. According to the Sun Sentinel’s story about the Pultizer, the two reporters “found nearly 800 officers who reached speeds of 90-130 mph, many of them while off duty. The accidents caused by officers driving at high speeds had caused at least 320 crashes since 2004, killing or maiming 21 people.”
The Pulitzer citation praised the newspaper’s “well documented investigation of off-duty police officers who recklessly speed and endanger the lives of citizens, leading to disciplinary action and other steps to curtail a deadly hazard.”
Talking about the series that he had edited, John said that the reporters “looked at something everybody here in South Florida knew was happening — chronic, often dangerous speeding by police officers both on and off duty — and crunched data from our local toll roads to show just how common it was, and which departments were the biggest offenders.”
He added: “Their investigative series and many follow-ups sparked a wave of internal reviews and disciplinary actions in area police departments, and most important — new toll data that Sally and John examined at the end of the year showed the police had slowed down.”
Fort Lauderdale is the latest stop on John’s career as a journalist, and the Pulitzer is his latest honor, too. As a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, he won a George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting in 1992 for reporting on unchecked disposal of radioactive material in the former Soviet Union. Then, in 1996, he won the Overseas Press Club’s Hal Boyle Award for best newspaper or wire service reporting from abroad for his series “Afghanistan: Legacy of Fear,” also in the LA Times, where he was a Pulitzer finalists for international reporting.
He’s also worked as a reporter and editor in Miami, Moscow, Paris and New Delhi. The Pulitzer, the ultimate honor in journalism, is the first for the Sun Sentinel.