Lauren Costantino ’19 made history on May 8 as the first graduate of the M.A. in Engagement Journalism program to contribute to a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. She joins the ranks of distinguished alumni from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism who have previously won Pulitzers for their exceptional stories across audio, explanatory writing, and other notable categories.
Costantino, an audience engagement producer for the Miami Herald, was honored along with four of her colleagues in the 2023 Pulitzer category for editorial writing. Their series of opinion pieces, “Broken Promises,” shed light on the unfulfilled vows made by powerful politicians and developers in south Florida to improve parks, historic neighborhoods, and transportation.
As she reflected on the team’s award-winning work, Costantino underscored the importance of not only holding power to account but putting communities at the forefront of journalistic storytelling. “When we decide what to write about, who to cover, how to present our work, it always needs to come back to who is our audience and how can we make this resonate with their lives?,” she said. “If we aren’t asking those questions, then how do we expect to make sustainable, impactful journalism?”
Costantino’s training in engagement journalism, which emphasizes community involvement and participation, played an essential role in the team’s success. Back in 2022, the team conducted a survey of their readers to gauge if the outlet’s coverage was meeting their audience’s needs.
The findings were clear: The people of south Florida wanted more coverage of corruption and abuse of power. “To me, this is a huge win for all audience producers who don’t normally get recognition for their work. The behind-the-scenes work we do to connect with audiences is important, and I hope more news outlets can dedicate more resources to hiring audience folks,” she said.
The team and Costantino are already seeing the impact of their reporting in the community. Following the publication of “Broken Promises,” protections for a prehistoric archaeological landmark have increased in the Miami neighborhood of Brickell, although recognition of the city’s indigenous history remains uncertain.
“I’m honored to be a part of this team and so grateful to be recognized in this way,” Costantino said. “I have to give a huge shout-out to Newmark’s engagement journalism program led by Carrie Brown and my former boss Terry Parris Jr. Both helped shape my understanding of how to do journalism in a way that focuses promptly on the communities we serve.”
Read more about the prize-winning Miami Herald editorial series here.