It’s been a year since a mass shooting took the lives of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C. The event made national headlines and right there in the action was the local newspaper, the Post & Courier. But the full context of a story that hits a community that deeply can’t be told through breaking news coverage. As the story unfolded over the next year, it became more complicated and complex, according to Mitch Pugh, Post & Courier executive editor.
“There is this forgiveness narrative out there that is very powerful and there is truth to that. The families were remarkable how they approached the situation,” Pugh said. “When Mr. Roof (21-year-old Dylann Roof was later arrested as the gunman) was brought in that preliminary hearing, they all got up one after another and forgave him. The truth of that action was much more complex. It’s one thing to stand up there in that moment and be able to say ‘I forgive you,’ it’s another to live that.”
To tell this narrative, the Post & Courier has partnered with St. Martin’s Press to publish a book scheduled to be released in 2017. However, Pugh said that date could change based on what happens at Roof’s trial. According to Pugh, an agent approached Jennifer Berry Hawes, the paper’s religion reporter at the time and who also covered the shooting, about writing a book dedicated to telling the story of the nine churchgoers who were killed. The book will be authored by Berry Hawes, and Glenn Smith, watchdog and public service editor, will be doing the preliminary editing.
Push said because of Berry Hawes’ connection and coverage of the religious community prior to the shooting on June 17, 2015 and the newspaper’s understanding of the city, the Post & Courier is best positioned to tell the unique contours of the story without any sensational aspects or obvious storylines.
“We felt like if there was going to be a book done that we wanted to make sure the book was done well, that it told the whole story, and encompassed everything the community was dealing with, everything the families are dealing with,” he said.
Pugh hopes the book will honor the families affected by the event and provide the full scope of the tragedy that left families, a community, and the newspaper forever changed.