Hurricane Katrina

Remarks from Publisher Ricky Mathews and Executive Editor Stan Tiner

Below are comments made by Publisher Ricky Mathews and Executive Editor Stan Tiner regarding the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for service journalism awarded to the Sun Herald on Monday:

Ricky Mathews comments:

The following are comments made by Ricky Mathews, publisher of the Sun Herald, following the announcement that the Sun Herald won a Pulitzer Prize gold medal for service journalism:

"It's been a hell of a journey, you guys, and this is the ultimate honor.

Most of the employees see when they come here a videotape that says you are the Sun Herald. What that means to all of us is that the newspaper ultimately and the employees who work here are a reflection of the community. We do a great job when people who are reading our paper see themselves in our newspaper.

They have done so in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

There couldn't be a better honor than to know that and to be recognized by some of the best newspaper people in the country for saying that we have been a reflection of our community: the pain, the joy, the unbelievable agony and everything that comes with that. We will, as Stan pointed out, arise from this terrible situation."

"I said to the group this morning if we were to win this, I think our best journalism is still ahead of us because this Sun Herald is in a community that has never been in the situation that we're in right now. We're in no man's land. Economically, we're going to be OK. Socially, we're going to have some big challenges ahead of us.

The newspaper's role in making sure that all the people of South Mississippi move forward, I think will be on us for many years to come. That delights me to know that this newspaper is that engaged in the process.

Thank you, all of you, and congratulations for your leadership in all the newsroom. Let's accept this honor with absolute humility and in appreciation."

Stan Tiner's comments

If I could turn back time and somehow remove August 29, 2005, from history and take away all of the enormous pain and loss suffered across our beautiful Coast I would do so. But I cannot.

So I look back across the fog and chasm of the months since and I remember not just the death and devastation, but also the courage and the spirit, the love and the hope, and the many, many helping hands that pulled us from the rubble to begin the journey to a future that we are traveling each day with sweat and dignity.

As soon as the great flood receded that epic story unfolded. Katrina had changed our lives forever but the Sun Herald's staff accepted their personal losses with grace and immediately began to tell South Mississippi's story to the world.

That is what they have done every day since and this remarkable story of a region's recovery remains our mission and will, for many years to come.

Like everyone here we are indebted to so many who have been our wonderful partners on the road from that awful day to this day.

Night had just fallen on that first electricless night when Bryan Monroe and his intrepid small band of Knight Ridder reporters, editors and photographers entered the Sun Herald building.

We knew we were not alone - and indeed our colleagues from every Knight Ridder newspaper from sea to shining sea came over the weeks ahead volunteering to live in the squalor of that unbearable September Mississippi heat to help us provide the information that was necessary for our shattered cities and towns to keep going in those critical days.

Knight Ridder digital was working feverishly to keep the outside world informed through our joint teams reporting efforts, informing evacuees of the news of their hometowns.

Not only did Knight Ridder provide a wonderful team of journalists and a support staff that stretched across every division, but employees everywhere dug deep into their own pockets, funds matched by corporate, to send over $600,000 in grant funds that shored the home team.

Solidarity my friends we will always think of you as Sun Herald folks.

We have long spoken of the "Sun Herald way," an ideal that embraces a sense that our employees are family. We stand, or fall, together. You may think it is a cliche to say "we are family," but these nearly eight months have borne testament to that truth.

Everyone here has done whatever was necessary to get the job done, whether getting the biggest press runs in the history of the paper off on time with remarkably beautiful precision, or delivering the papers to individuals in relief lines and in tents, to those who kept the newsroom going with "care" packages of food, hand-pumped gasoline, and the wondrous magic of ice which seemed so much a luxury in those days.

There are so many to thank, so much unsung greatness that will perhaps never be properly known, as uncommon courage and sacrifice were a common bond for the people of the Sun Herald.

Tony Ridder stood where we stand now on August 30, and he pledged his support and the company's for this newspaper, its people, and the journalism that we would be producing. He was true to his word and we will be forever indebted for it.

And how could we not salute our colleagues at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer who published the paper in those early days and trucked here so the stream of news would never be broken.

I also want to acknowledge Marie Harris and Tony Biffle whose editorials achieved the distinction of Pulitzer finalists. Here, here, my dear colleagues.

All of those and more are a part of the backstory on the event we celebrate today. The Gold Medal, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service - Journalism's greatest honor.

We also congratulate Jim Amoss and his team at the times-picayune for their gold medal. Our newspapers and our two states will be forever linked by Katrina, and our individual telling of the separate and distinct stories of the devastation wrought in each, and of the efforts to recover.

Today is your day Sun Herald family. You are truly the best. And to this newsroom I say this - never have so few worked so hard and so long to tell such a story - an unending story as you all know.

You have risen to magnificent heights and you will live always in my memory of a time when your journalism set the standard for an industry that sorely needed such a reminder. Every one of you is a hero to me and I thank you for giving so much.

Finally, this Pulitzer Prize, this Gold Medal - is dedicated to the people of South Mississippi whose magnificent hearts and spirit moved us every day that we have been privileged to tell the story of their struggle and triumphs. They will not be defeated -- not by Katrina, or anything.