A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Newspaper deadline reporting, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

By Quill

The summer night played out like a movie. One editor and one reporter staffed the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Delray Office. One hour until deadline, and the pair thought of little more than getting home.

“Church bus in a canal with 25 people on board,” crackled the police scanner.

The team quickly shifted gears – reporter Mike Clary out the door, and Assistant City Editor Arnie Rosenberg settled in for a long night.

“I was just about to climb into bed for the night when I got the call to head out to Florida’s Turnpike,” said reporter Neil Santaniello. “Rosenberg had very little time – no time, actually – to think about his game plan, but executed one nonetheless.”

“For three hours, I was balancing reporters filing by cell phone, making sure they were reporting ahead for the next edition and not duplicating efforts,” said Rosenberg. “As I talked to the reporters in the field, I was listening to the police scanner, writing through the story for three editions, keeping an eye on the clock and assuring the copy desk that we’d hit each deadline.”

In all, the team hit three deadlines in three hours. The efforts of five reporters, a photographer, a graphic artist and many editors made the deadly accident the Sun-Sentinel’s front page news for Sunday, Aug. 8.

“There’s enormous satisfaction in knowing you’ve reported and written the hell out of a breaking story on deadline,” said Rosenberg. “There’s great pride the next morning when you see you’ve kicked the competition’s butt. But receiving recognition from outside your own newsroom, and from an organization of the stature of Sigma Delta Chi, is validation that you’ve done top-flight work, the best in the country.”

Judges praised the Sun-Sentinel’s ability to tackle time.

“With just one hour to deadline, they capture in great detail the gruesome story of a church bus crashing into a canal, killing three people,” said judges. “With no advanced notice that the news was about to break, no previous reporting on events leading up to the breaking news, and no more than five reporters, this staff brought their readers the text, photos and graphics that only good old-fashioned hustle yields.”