We Just Won the First Ever Pulitzer Prize for Audio Journalism!

May 4, 2020

Ira here. I’m thrilled to tell you that This American Life just won the very first Pulitzer Prize ever given to audio journalism, for "revelatory, intimate journalism that illuminates the personal impact of the Trump administration's 'Remain in Mexico' policy."

For years now, we’ve been doing serious reporting, including investigative stories. It’s gratifying to be recognized by the Pulitzers for that side of our work.

The episode that won, “The Out Crowd,” ran last November. When we started putting it together, we knew that elements of the "Remain in Mexico" policy had been covered by the press. But a lot of that coverage had come out in drips and drops, as the wonky specifics of the policy changed. Most listeners – hell, most of our own families and friends – had not put together what the policies really meant: tens of thousands of asylum seekers stranded on the other side of the border in shelters, on the streets, and in makeshift encampments. Many get kidnapped by the cartels, in areas the State Department classifies as being as violent and unsafe as Syria and Iraq.

We wanted to document the emotional truth of that, building stories around characters and scenes and story arcs like we have in all our shows. So the episode includes a piece of investigative reporting by Los Angeles Times reporter Molly O’Toole, produced by Nadia Reiman, where she interviewed asylum officers who talked about their discomfort enforcing the policy. She documented the fact that many of them were resigning. There’s also a story by Emily Green, produced by Lina Misitzis, built around remarkable recordings of cartels negotiating ransom for the release of a father and son who’d been kidnapped immediately after being returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s policy. I reported, with Aviva DeKornfeld, at one of the squalid tent camps that’s sprung up just across the border.

Nadia Reiman produced the episode, with help from Aviva DeKornfeld. Editing from David Kestenbaum, Susan Burton, Ben Calhoun, and others. Fact-checking by Christopher Swetala, Michelle Harris, and Ben Phelan. Mixing by Matt Tierney, Stowe Nelson, and Katherine Rae Mondo. And it really was a group effort for the entire staff, including managers and administrative staff who handled logistics.

It’s an honor to be recognized this way by the Pulitzers. And exciting to win their very first prize for audio reporting. Fun fact: the Peabody Awards were established in 1940 partly because the Pulitzers wouldn’t give out awards to this newfangled medium called radio.

I guess they decided audio journalism is finally here to stay.


The Out Crowd

Reports from the frontlines of the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" asylum policy.