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2019 Breaking News, Large Newsroom winner

Massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue

About the Project

The first report of trouble was a text alert sent out by Carnegie Mellon University shortly after 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, notifying users that police operations were underway two miles away from the campus: “A police operation is occurring at the corner of Shady & Wilkins Avenue. Please avoid the area until further notice.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters and photographers were already on their way to the scene when a second report noted there was an active shooter.

Thus began a day that would end with grim vigil attended by more than 3,000 people to remember the 11 people who were killed in an attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Another six people were wounded, including four police officers, who helped apprehend the lone shooting suspect, identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers.

By 2 p.m. on the day of the slaughter, the Post-Gazette discovered that Bowers had posted anti-Semitic statements on Gag.com, a social media site.

In days before the shooting occurred, the tone of the postings had grown more strident and threatening. Among them was one last post that Bowers made on Gab.com earlier in the day, shortly before the shooting occurred: “HIAS (HIAS National Refugee Shabbat, formerly the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Due to the crush of information that was uncovered throughout the day, the PG staff developed more than a dozen stories that were published online that day, as well as countless posts from reporters and editors on social media. But the staff’s work wasn’t done. News continued to break in the days that followed, and we made sure we also memorialized the victims and gave our community a voice with several special interactive features.

We believe the Post-Gazette’s thorough reporting with continuous updates throughout the day on this horrendous crime, as well as our continuous coverage of the aftermath, merits consideration for the Breaking News award.

Acceptance

Backstage

Jim Iovino accepted the 2019 award for Breaking News, Large Newsroom. (Video by Justus Hawkins, ONA19 HBCU Fellow)