This is the second time I've been part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom. Both times, I helped cover the topic at hand, but this time, I'm officially one of the winners. We couldn't be prouder of the work we produced. Learn more here.
Here's a story explaining why:
Originally posted at Cincinnati.com.
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s first foray into true-crime podcasting became a podcast hit that’s so far been heard nearly 4 million times and is appearing on year-end “best of” lists nationwide.
On Dec. 14, the series’ creators, Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossmann, will meet with listeners to discuss how the podcast unfolded behind the scenes – and reveal what’s been done since the show’s finale.
“The response has been unbelievable,” said Hunt, reporter-turned-podcast host. “We thought we’d created something that was good journalistically, but we never had any clue it’d reach so many people and raise so much awareness.”
Accused appeared for more than a week on iTunes’ list of top U.S. podcasts. It also reached No. 1 on the iTunes list in the United Kingdom. Hunt and Rossmann, the show’s producer, have received countless messages from all across the world, including New Zealand and Japan.
The Dec. 14 event is meant as a thank-you to the series’ supporters and will be recorded for use in a possible upcoming podcast. Seats are limited and must be reserved at tickets.cincinnati.com. In addition to Hunt and Rossmann, Enquirer lawyer Jack Greiner – who played a key role in the podcast’s development – will be on hand to answer questions, as will Enquirer editor Peter Bhatia and Accused editor Amy Wilson.
What: Live Q&A with the creative, editorial and legal team behind one of the most popular podcasts of 2016
Where: 1421 Main St. Cincinnati, OH 45202
When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00.
Here we are. We've been here a week.
We had two goals when we set out: to ensure Beth's story wasn't forgotten and to help police solve the case. With more than 1.5 million downloads to date, I feel comfortable we've accomplished one of the two. Now I'm setting my sights on goal No. 2.
It's been interesting hearing the response. Some people love the series, as evidenced by the plays and the tweets and the Facebook messages I've received. I can't even keep up with all the notes, so apologies if you've sent one and I haven't responded yet. Know that I read them, but that I simply get overwhelmed so some of them are being catalogued for the short-term.
There of course has been criticism as well -- that I'm too aggressive, that we're exploiting Beth's story. I take it in because it's interesting and insightful. Yeah, I'm aggressive. It's my job, and I'm pretty good at it. Not perfect, mind you, but pretty good. And, yes, I'd even agree that we're exploiting Beth's story, but we're doing so to help highlight how a system that gets tunnel vision helps no one. But I hope that doesn't sound defensive, because I really appreciate the feedback. I didn't do anything differently on this reporting project than I'd do on one for print, so I usually only get feedback on the process from sources. I'm self-reflective enough for this to have been really cool to hear how I come across to strangers, for better and worse. That said, I wouldn't do much differently next time. Beth's story deserved to be heard -- read by some: exploited -- to expose problems within a system, and I'm a journalist because I push for answers. That's what I do. "News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising," said William Randolph Hearst (a version of which is sometimes credited to George Orwell). If someone doesn't want it printed, it should go without saying that journalists wanting to write news sometimes are pulling info from less-than-willing sources. Accused is simply transparent about that process.
We're being asked a lot whether we plan another season. We're not sure yet as we're just now coming up for air after this one. We're also making a point to catalogue all of the incoming tips and suggestions so that hopefully there's an Ep9 on Beth's story. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Meanwhile, I'd like to send a big thanks to the crime pods that came before us. I hadn't listened to many of them before we recorded ours, to be honest -- I didn't want to be too influenced in how we rolled out our story, so a lot of my podcast research was in different genres (shout out to "How Did This Get Made" and "You Must Remember This," two of my staples). But now that mine is done, I've explored "In the Dark," "Criminal" and "Someone Knows Something." I recognized a lot of my own experience as a reporter with the latter especially -- feeling like shit sometimes, worrying about opening old wounds, questioning my reasons for being drawn to the case to begin with. I'm grateful these podcasts exist and that they seem to be created by kindred, truth-seeking spirits.
My hope for them is the same as my hope for ours: May we all help solve the cases we cover. Anyone who's spent time with the victims' families know they deserve that much.
Just three weeks ago, my podcast "Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes" debuted. On Thursday, the finale for the eight-episode endeavor went live.
It's been a hell of a month. My producer Amanda Rossmann and I have worked an insane number of hours, not only on the transcripts and promotion and teaser videos, but also on components of a special section to be released Sunday, Oct. 2. Amanda right now is sitting across from me working on a video for the project, trying to figure out how to condense dozens of hours of footage down to about 10 minutes for a newspaper audience.
Today has been especially gratifying because "Accused" climbed to No. 2 on the iTunes' podcast chart nationwide. That's across all categories.
I remember one colleague about six months ago quipping about how much time we were spending on a podcast that would likely have just 50 listens. Well, today we're cruising past the 500,000 mark on Soundcloud.
To read more about today's milestone, click here.
I don't write this to crow. In fact, I probably write this more out of sheer exhaustion than anything else. But I'm also writing from a place of gratitude: Thank you to my bosses at The Enquirer for believing in this and giving us the time to do it properly. Thank you to the Andes family for entrusting us to tell Beth's story. Thank you to Bob Young for never once asking us to omit anything or otherwise try to sway our coverage -- even knowing that we could very well have come to the same conclusion that prosecutors did all those years ago. Finally, big thanks to Debbie Lydon for recognizing that involving a newspaper might help further the case. Without that initial contact, we never would have done this.
I'll quit with the sappiness now. Every now and then, it's important to acknowledge how grateful you are. This is one of those moments for me.
To learn more about "Accused," please go to Cincinnati.com/AccusedPodcast.
I haven't had my name much in the newspaper lately, and there's a reason. That reason was unveiled today.
On Sept. 8, The Enquirer is debuting what I've been working on for the past year with Amanda Rossmann.
I'm proud of it. I can't articulate how relieved I am it's almost out there -- and how anxious I am for people to hear it. I hope it does what I think it has the potential to do.
To learn more: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/08/27/introducing-accused-podcast-unsolved-murder-elizabeth-andes/89396140/
It's always a strange experience as a journalist to be asked to talk about yourself. Sure, I've written plenty of first-person accounts in the form of travel stories and such, but that's still working in the medium with which I'm most comfortable: writing. Speaking is another matter entirely.
Still, I was surprised to have had a blast -- speaking flubs and all -- while delivering a TEDx Talk through Cincinnati's Xavier University in April. It was a great experience, and I've received wonderful feedback on the message overall. Bottom line: Journalists get lied to a lot. Your best bet is to assume no one's telling you the truth, ever.
My latest story for Cincinnati.com highlights the real-life impact that an Ohio law change that unseals adoption records is having on families nationwide.
Through the story, I got to meet Brad Watts, who was put up for adoption in 1975. For four decades, he wondered about his biological family, and, thanks to the law change, in 2015 he got to meet his mother, his father and a whole slew of siblings he never dreamed he'd have. Here's the story: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/01/07/unsealed-adoption-records-reunite-families/77383544_/.
The story was picked up and cited by People magazine as well.
Originally published at authoramberhunt.com.
The start of this week was a whirlwind of press conferences, photo opportunities and historic court arguments for me as I covered the Supreme Court in action for the first time.
I’ve been a full-time reporter since 1999, and while my career has led me to Instanbul and Tokyo and Paris and Belize, I’d never been to our nation’s Capitol, much less granted a seat for one of the most historic high court arguments of the generation. I was there Tuesday, April 28, as the justices listened to arguments on both sides of the historic Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case.
Here are five lessons I’m taking home from the experience:
• Media have the worst seats in the house. I’d been warned that I’d likely have a tough time seeing the justices, but it turned out, that was an understatement. Most reporters lucky enough to land spots inside Supreme Court arguments are seated behind no fewer than three impressive obstructions: gorgeous marble columns adorning the 1935-built structure; theatrical ceiling-to-floor curtains that, while tied back, still partially block the view; and an ornate golden divider that ensures that if you were somehow fortunate enough to avoid the first two obstructions, your view still hinges on your ability to peer through decorative cutouts.
You’re also not allowed to move much, and standing to stretch is also a no-no. Of course, those rules flew out the window, albeit briefly, when a protester disrupted the hearing.
• Hearing is pretty tricky, too. While some of the justices’ voices were blessedly clear, you ran the risk of misidentifying them because you couldn’t see who was speaking. (I’d listened to the Windsor case in the morning in hopes of familiarizing myself with their voices, but there were too many similarities for me to become an expert in short order.) Most of us reporters looked around like confused toddlers until someone with more behind-the-curtains experience clued us in on the likely talker.
Oh, and fun fact: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has the easiest voice to recognize, but she’s arguably the hardest to understand. She projects as though she’s talking into a bolt of wool. If it weren’t for the quick turnaround on the audio and transcripts uploaded online, most of us would have easily messed up half of the quotes.
• Some protesting is heartfelt, but some seems more like theater. On Monday, the demonstrations were largely civil. Sure, some gay-rights activists tried to drown out the bullhorns of traditional marriage advocates by singing, “All we are saying, is give love a chance.” And, yes, those in support of Biblical marriage did condemn gays and lesbians to hell. But whatever tension arose then was nothing compared to the theatrics of Tuesday, which seemed to bring out those who were more interested in getting on TV than they were in supporting a cause.
The Enquirer opted not to show all of the protesters’ signs because the language on some got pretty raw. It would be easy to zero in on those protesters for the shock value, but it wouldn’t have been a true representation of those who started showing up as early as Friday for the Tuesday hearing. In short, the extremists on either side didn’t seem to be there for the cause as much as they were for the photo op.
• Supreme Court security guards don’t seem keen on breastfeeding in public. One of the Cincinnati mothers in the Henry v. Hodges case sat quietly on the steps Monday evening, discreetly breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter. A security guard who spotted her snapped, “You are not doing that here.” Surprised, the woman stopped and pulled out a pouch of baby food instead.
On the surface, it might seem a no-brainer to refrain from breastfeeding outside the nation’s highest court, but the scene around her wasn’t exactly one of heightened decorum: Nearby, protesters supported traditional marriage by yelling through a bullhorn about “natural law” and condemning gays and lesbians to hell. They also preached about the importance of doing what’s best for children.
After I returned home, I learned that the guard who booted the mom wasn’t obeying the law, which allows women to breastfeed on federal property. Had I known then what I know now, I would have happily gotten a little uppity with him in pointing out his error.
• It was really, really cool. Our coverage of the historic case wasn’t the best-read thing I’ve ever written. In fact, it was drowned out Monday by a colleague’s story of an Over-the-Rhine restaurant naming a hot dog special after Bruce Jenner, who recently announced that he is a transgender woman.
But, hey, we live in a world where kitten videos reign supreme. That doesn’t diminish the fact that I was on the Supreme Court steps, and inside its hallowed halls, as a witness to history. I don’t know for certain what June’s expected ruling will be, but I do know this much: I was there, I saw more than most, I heard more than many, and I learned a few things along the way.
All in all, not a bad way to spend the week.
(To read my news stories of the coverage, go here: http://tinyurl.com/ssm-coverage)
I'm an author, journalist, photographer and college instructor.