Reveal’s ‘Mississippi Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe’ Wins IRE Award

Mississippi Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe, a seven-part radio investigation into the suspicious death of a 17-year-old black high school football star in Mississippi over a decade ago, tied for great honors from Investigative Reporters & Editors for audio in the large category.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Reveal’s audio investigations have been honored by the IRE, the largest and oldest investigative journalism association in the United States. This year, Reveal is tied with NPR, The California Newsroom, The Texas Newsroom, Columbia Journalism Investigations and Public Health Watch for their collaboration, Hot days: Heat kills more and more workers in the United States

Deeply narrated and harrowingly told, the Mississippi Goddam series examined how local, state and federal law enforcement officials botched their investigation into the death of Billey Joe Johnson Jr., a promising young football player from Lucedale. , Mississippi, who was fatally shot. after a traffic stop with police in 2008. Johnson’s death was originally ruled an accident.

In three years of digs, Reveal host Al Letson and journalist Jonathan Jones uncovered myriad flaws in law enforcement investigations, as well as numerous discrepancies in testimonies. When presented with Reveal’s findings, the medical examiner handling the case changed his mind about Johnson’s death, undermining the grand jury’s findings that he died by accidentally shooting himself. The lead investigator in the case, Joel Wallace, told Letson and Jones that he would have demanded that the district attorney reopen the case if he had been aware of the information uncovered.

In their comments, the IRE judges noted that Reveal had cast doubt on the investigation into the death, saying: “The team managed to obtain records in notorious condition to keep them secret, which does not That was just the beginning of what their investigation revealed. Hearing the medical examiner admit, in the file, that the case could now be examined from a different angle was major.

The series deftly situated the flaws and failures of justice in Johnson’s case within the larger story of racial violence in Mississippi, focusing on the lack of police accountability and the long-troubled system of justice. State to investigate suspicious deaths. Reveal found that investigators failed to probe for inconsistencies in testimony, corroborate key statements and explore allegations that Johnson was regularly targeted by police before his death.

Kevin Sullivan served as series editor and executive producer. Michael I Schiller was the series producer. Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda provided sound design, engineering and composition. Steven Rascón was the production assistant. Sumi Aggarwal was the editor. Amy Mostafa was the production manager. Rosemarie Ho and Nikki Frick were the fact checkers. Additional help came from Nina Martin, the series’ digital editor; Andy Donohue, Projects Team Editor; and Sarah Mirk, the digital producer.

Listen to the award-winning radio documentary: Mississippi Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe

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