The Post and Courier’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service represents a wonderful achievement for our newspaper.
It also represents a continuing challenge for our state.
That winning series, “Till Death To Us Part,” is a chilling examination of South Carolina’s consistently high rate of domestic violence deaths.
The hard-hitting, painfully revealing opening last August, under the byline of Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff:
“More than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse.
“More than three times as many women have died here at the hands of current or former lovers than the number of Palmetto State soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
“It’s a staggering toll that for more than 15 years has placed South Carolina among the top 10 states nationally in the rate of women killed by men. The state topped the list on three occasions, including this past year, when it posted a murder rate for women that was more than double the national rate.”
The thoroughly researched series delivered gripping accounts of this ongoing crisis of appalling inhumanity in our state.
It was aided by splendid design work, most notably the full front page on the first day, Aug. 20, featuring photos of dozens of the victims in happier days. It provided a real sense of the awful loss.
Here’s what the prize committee said in Monday’s release on the Public Service decision:
“Awarded to The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., for ‘Till Death Do Us Part,’ a riveting series that probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women and put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda.”
And the series was powerful enough to win other journalism awards as well.
More importantly, it was compelling enough to trigger widespread demands for reform of antiquated policies and laws.
Those in the halls of state power have been hearing those pleas. State lawmakers are working on legislation aimed at reducing the terrible toll of domestic abuse in our state with tougher penalties for offenders.
The Senate has approved such a bill, which includes a gun ban for most offenders.
Unfortunately, though, there remains a significant level of stubborn, misguided resistance in the S.C. House to assuring restrictions on gun ownership by domestic abusers. The House bill would allow criminal domestic violence offenses to be pleaded down to assault, which would effectively remove the requirement of a gun ban.
South Carolinians should let their elected officials in Columbia know that allowing domestic abusers to keep legally owning guns in the name of the Second Amendment is not just legally misguided, but morally wrong. Considering the public’s viewpoint, as seen in statewide polls, the House position should also be politically costly.
Editor Robert Lathan of The News and Courier, which merged with the Charleston Evening Post in 1991 to become The Post and Courier, won a 1925 Pulitzer for his editorial “The Plight of the South.” It cited “the rest of the country” treating the South as a “negligible factor” due to, among other problems, the region having “virtually no national program and virtually no national leadership.”
Now, 90 years later, “Till Death Do Us Part” should do more than win American newspaper journalism’s highest honor.
It should serve as an urgent and continuing call to action against the ugly reality of rampant domestic abuse in South Carolina — and beyond.