NMG member Tamara Lush won last week’s AP Best of the States award for going deep inside the story of a 12-year-old Florida girl’s suicide to show the girl probably didn’t do it because of bullying on social media.
Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death last September, and the story got national play after the PolkCounty sheriff said the reason was face-to-face arguments and relentless bullying in cruel texts and other online messages.
Lush, the Tampa correspondent, led daily coverage while checking into the iffy bullying charges to see whether other troubles might have been behind the suicide. Months after making a public records request for the case investigation file, Lush received its contents, indicating the girl was upset by a breakup with her boyfriend, a troubled relationship with her father and fights between her mother and stepfather.
The Sedwick girl had once been involuntarily committed and was getting counseling, and her diary contained the word “suicidal” and mentions that she cut herself to “ease the pain.” There was little evidence of any recent bullying, giving Lush a great exclusive that wide play.