– Photographer Joel Auerbach’s poignant image of two women crying outside a Florida high school as parents awaited news about their children after a gunman’s deadly rampage on the campus.
– Reporters Michael Biesecker and Collin Binkley’s exclusive reporting that the suspect was a “good shot” on a National Rifle Association-backed rifle team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The two exclusives helped distinguish the coverage of the shooting at the school that left 17 dead. For capturing the human toll in a single iconic image and shedding light on the suspect’s marksmanship training, Auerbach, Biesecker and Binkley win this week’s Beat of the Week.
Minutes after reports of a shooting on the campus of Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, Auerbach, a freelance photographer, ran toward the school. Using a long lens, he took a quick photograph of the two women crying. One of them had come from an Ash Wednesday service.
The image captured the fear and devastation the gathering parents felt as they awaited word on whether their children were safe, injured or slain. He quickly filed the photo, making sure AP would be first with a visual marker of the event. The photo beat Reuters and Getty by at least an hour and became an iconic image of the tragedy. The photo was used on thousands of news sites and led slideshow packages news organizations put together, including from CNN.
Meanwhile, investigative reporter Michael Biesecker noticed on the school’s Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp Twitter feed a 2016 post thanking the NRA for a $10,000 donation to the group’s marksmanship team.
Using tax records and online media, Biesecker and Binkley connected the suspect to the high school's NRA-funded marksmanship team.
Collin Binkley of the education beat team analyzed tax records and confirmed the donation, while determining that the NRA had made more than $2 million in donations to school districts to support youth shooting clubs and other programs around the country.
Gleaning the names of students from their uniform shirts on social media and videos with captions on YouTube, Biesecker reached out to them on social media and by phone. One former JROTC colleague confirmed Cruz was on the group’s air rifle team, was a good shot, had the nickname “Wolf” and seemed obsessed with firearms.
The story got widespread national attention, featured in newspapers and websites, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, CBS News, PBS, Chicago Tribune, Kansas City Star and Sacramento Bee.
For Auerbach’s quick work to capture a heartbreaking moment that become an iconic image of the shooting and for Biesecker and Binkley’s intrepid sleuthing, the trio win this week’s $500 Beat of the Week prize.