Washington Post reporter John Woodrow Cox has won the Meyer “Mike” Berger Award and the Dart Award for excellence in covering trauma for “Children and Gun Violence,” a deep examination of how shootings shape the lives of millions of children.
The series, which was published throughout 2017, showed gun violence from the perspective of children: a 4-year-old who, sitting in a car seat and clutching a Spider-Man mask, was shot in the head; a 7-year-old growing up surrounded by gunfire in Washington; a first-grade class at recess when a teenager went to the school and opened fire.
Cox won both awards on Wednesday morning. The Dart Award also went to his editor, Lynda Robinson, and the photographer Ricky Carioti.
“The goal, and the result to a degree, was to show people that this is an epidemic that has impacted many more of our children than anyone understands,” Cox said of his reporting.
“John was tireless and meticulous in documenting what society’s most vulnerable had endured because of gun violence,” Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said. “We’re very grateful for this recognition of his work, which stands out for its timeliness, thoroughness, sensitivity and eloquence.”
The project began in 2016, with an idea from his Robinson, to write a series of articles about children and violence. Cox, who had recently written about a child with HIV, quickly zeroed in on the idea of gun violence. “We keep seeing that the numbers were climbing each year,” he said. “The number of affected children is in the millions, not the thousands.”
In “Children Under Fire,” Cox followed Carter “Quis” Hill, a 4-year-old who was shot in the back seat of his mother’s car during what police called an extraordinary act of road rage. Almost two dozen children are shot in the United States each day. Carter survived the shooting after surgery to remove the bullet from his head. Hill’s mother allowed Cox to tell Carter’s story because, Cox wrote, “she wanted people to understand all that he endured.”
Cox told the story of 15-year-old Ruben Urbina in “I Want It to Stop.” Urbina was battling depression and anxiety. Unable to bear it, he called 911 and made threats. When police responded, they fatally shot Urbina. Cox’s article included reporting from hundreds of text messages sent between Urbina and his best friend during his last days alive.
Cox has continued to report on the effects of gun violence on children since completing the series. Cox and Post database editor Steven Rich teamed up to publish an article after the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting in February that documented the scope of students’ exposure to gun violence while at school. Since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999, that number is more than 187,000.
The Meyer “Mike” Berger Award is awarded by the Columbia Journalism School to reporters who produce “an outstanding example of in-depth, human interest reporting.” The award includes a $1,500 honorarium and an invitation to speak at the Columbia Journalism School. The Post’s Eli Saslow won the Berger Award in 2017 for a series on suffering in white, rural America.
The Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma recognize two winners annually for work covering “the impact of violence, crime, and other traumatic events on individuals, families, and communities.” Winners receive a $5,000 cash prize. This year’s other award went to the Marshall Project’s “We Are Witnesses,” about the state of the criminal justice system.
The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is a project from the Columbia Journalism School. Saslow and Post photographer Jabin Botsford won the Dart Award in 2016 for telling the story of a young survivor of a community college shooting.
Cox’s “Children and Gun Violence” previously won the Scripps Howard Ernie Pyle Award for human interest storytelling.
This story has been updated.