OVERVIEW: Wyoming Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Activities

Presented by:
Wyoming Humanities Council
Current Initiative: Centennial Campfires National Partner: The Pulitzer Prizes Local Partner: Nonprofits Subject: Digital Humanities, Journalism, K-12 Education, Varies Audience: All, Educators

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, the Wyoming Humanities Council focused its efforts on highlighting Wyoming journalists and journalism, as well as connecting previous Pulitzer Prize-winning works and individuals to current Wyoming issues, events, and reporting. Partnering with the Wyoming Press Association, WyoHistory.org, and WyoFile.org, the council commissioned and published more than 12 articles, as well as hosted and video-recorded a panel discussion on the past, present, and future of Wyoming journalism.

IMPORTANT MOMENTS IN EQUALITY STATE NEWSPAPER HISTORY (Wyoming Press Association, WyoHistory.org)

In partnership with the Wyoming Press Association (WPA) and WyoHistory.org, the digital encyclopedia of Wyoming, the Wyoming Humanities Council commissioned Wyohistory.org to write profiles and stories about members of the WPA Hall of Fame. These peer-reviewed and professionally edited stories and articles were distributed through the WPA to all Wyoming print and online newspapers for publication throughout 2016. The articles are stored on WyoHistory.org as an educational collection with curricular support for K-12 students and teachers.

Articles included:

  • A feature on Tracy McCraken and his influence on Wyoming newspapers.
  • A feature on the history of the Casper-Star Tribune’s year-long 1984 investigative series on Northern Utilities who overcharged customers by millions of dollars. In 1985, the series was selected as a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize’s Excellence in Public Service category.
  • A feature on Tom Bell and the High County News, a paper that often focused on conservation issues in the area brought on by the extraction industry and that faced extinction until it “miraculously raised” enough money to continue.
  • A feature on T. Payton, a newspaper subscription seller and reporter for the Cheyenne Daily Leader who gained some fame after accompanying a posse that set out after the outlaws of the Wilcox Train Robbery. He was later committed to the Wyoming Insane Asylum where he wrote a series of articles entitled, “Cruel Treatment,” and championed reform in mental health facilities.
  • A feature on Bill Nye, founder of the Laramie Boomerang which was named after his mule. Nye was a humorist whose joy was bursting bubbles of those who exaggerated claims of the West and particularly Laramie when they would write, inaccurately, about the beauty or wondrousness of the area without mentioning the harshness. Nye was later hired as a columnist for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.
  • A feature on Merris Barlow and Bill Barlow’s Budget. The newspaper which began under the facade of impartiality but was rife with political and social commentary and comedy.
  • A feature on Asa Mercer who openly opposed the Johnson County Wars despite his close ties with many involved. Mercer published stories detailing conflict and a book on the cattle wars that is still regarded as the authority on the subject “despite the occasional error and bias.”

JOURNALISM AND DEMOCRACY IN THE EQUALITY STATE TODAY (WyoFile)

In partnership with WyoFile, an independent, nonprofit news service focused on the people, places, and policies of Wyoming and the state’s sole outlet for online long-form journalism, the council commissioned six articles published throughout 2016 (beginning April 2016) that connected past Pulitzer Prize-winning material about equality and/or civil rights with equality issues faced in Wyoming today. In collaboration with the Wyoming Press Association, the council made these articles available to the state’s print and online newspapers.

WyoFile published the following stories in a dedicated section of their website:

  • A two-part feature on the use of newspapers as public access tools following the lawsuit filed by a local paper and parent company over the switch of public meeting notifications from newspapers to local ad sheets.
  • A two-part feature on the status of marijuana in Wyoming that investigated the discrepancy between public opinion and state law in light of 2016 legislative action around the country.
  • A feature on the amendments to Wyoming’s Sunshine Laws which would allow for fees to be charged for access to public records.
  • A two-part feature looking into the state’s worker compensation program and ballooning investment in light of claims alleging unfair denials and unfair compensation.
  • A feature highlighting a Wyoming resident who was granted early release as a non-violent drug offender under an Obama administration initiative.

JOURNALISM IN THE EQUALITY STATE – WHERE ARE WE GOING? (Wyoming Press Association)

The council hosted and video-recorded a panel discussion about the past, present, and future of journalism at the Wyoming Press Association Winter Convention.

WEBSITE: REPORTING ON EQUALITY IN THE EQUALITY STATE: WYOMING’S JOURNALISTIC PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

A page on the Wyoming Humanities Council’s website is now dedicated to explaining the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires initiative and linking the articles and materials from “Equality in the Equality State” initiative and will remain live as long as the commissioned articles are available. Should the stories become unavailable at either original site, Wyoming Humanities Council will continue their publication on the council’s website.

Additionally, the council published a story addressing the late-2016 phenomena of “fake news” and highlighted the importance of truth and fact-based narrative along with reliable news sources while pointing back to the Campfires Initiative work of the year.

PARTNERSHIPS:

  • Wyoming Press Association
  • WyoHistory.org by the Wyoming Historical Society
  • WyoFile.com

To go back to the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires spotlight page and overview of all council campfires programs, please click the purple button at the end of the article.

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