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Post editor discusses police-shooting database Sept. 20

A deputy investigative editor at The Washington Post will discuss the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning — and unprecedented — database of nearly 1,000 fatal police shootings Tuesday, Sept. 20, in a special free public event at MTSU.

David Fallis

David Fallis

“Fatal Force” with David Fallis is set for 1 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Parliamentary Room inside the university’s Student Union.

A searchable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap. Off-campus visitors attending the lecture can obtain a special one-day permit at www.mtsu.edu/parking/visit.php.

Click The Washington Post's "Fatal Force" graphic to visit the website.

Click The Washington Post’s “Fatal Force” graphic to visit the website.

The discussion, presented by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at MTSU, is part of the university’s Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series commemorating the 100th anniversary of The Pulitzer Prizes.

Fallis helped lead the team behind the Post’s “Fatal Force” project, which included traditional reporting and national data collection of police shootings and analysis. The project won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for its comprehensive study of 990 on-duty fatal shootings by a police officer in 2015.

The yearlong project evolved after the fatal Aug. 9, 2014, shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly African-American suburb of St. Louis.

The Pulitzer committee noted the Post team’s discoveries, which included:

  • Most of those who died were white men armed with guns who were killed by police in threatening circumstances.
  • A quarter of those killed were suicidal or had a history of mental illness.
  • More than 50 of the officers involved had killed before.
  • While only 9 percent of people killed by police were not armed, unarmed black men were seven times more likely than unarmed whites to die by police gunfire.

“The Post’s stories defied conventional wisdom about police shootings while exposing an urgent need for reform,” the Pulitzer committee said in announcing the award.

Pulitzer Centennial graphic webPost Executive Editor Martin Baron said the “Fatal Force” project was a full-force newsroom effort.

“When police shootings dominated the national conversation, basic facts were missing because police are not required to report fatal shootings to the FBI. The Post’s writers and editors sought to fill that enormous information gap with an unprecedented database on police shootings and comprehensive on-the-ground reporting,” Baron said.

“Deploying people in every corner of the newsroom, The Post delivered on a core journalistic mission — telling the public what it needs to know. And its work had immediate impact: The FBI said it would overhaul how it tracks fatal police encounters, promising to make it ‘the highest priority.’ We’re honored that the Pulitzer board recognized the skill of our staff and the importance of its work.”

“Fatal Force” also won the Polk Award for National Reporting and a Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service and was a finalist for The Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, The Goldsmith Award, the Scripps Howard Award for Investigative Reporting and IRE’s Innovation in Investigative Journalism award.

You can see The Post’s fatal police shootings 2015 database here; the page also includes a link to the 2016 database.

Seigenthaler Chair new logo webFallis has worked at The Washington Post since 1999 in the publication’s investigations teams, taking the deputy editorship in August 2014. Before joining The Post, Fallis, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote and edited for The Tulsa World. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and taught investigative reporting at George Washington University.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian and journalist Jon Meacham was MTSU’s inaugural Centennial Series guest last February. The Seigenthaler Chair also brought firsthand insights “From the Front Lines of Ferguson” to MTSU in February 2015 with the help of St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer/videographer David Carson, St. Louis 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French and USA Today reporter Yamiche Alcindor.

MTSU established the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies in 1986 to honor the iconic journalist’s lifelong commitment to free expression. The Seigenthaler Chair, which is a part of the university’s College of Media and Entertainment, supports a variety of activities related to free speech, free press rights and other topics of concern for contemporary journalism.

Learn more about MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at http://mtpress.mtsu.edu/seigenthaler.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

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