‘Suave’ – a podcast from Futuro Media and PRX – wins Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting

The story of one man’s incarceration and redemption – and the atypical relationship of a reporter and her source – received journalism’s highest honor on Monday. The Futuro Media and PRX teams won a Pulitzer Prize in audio reporting for “Suave”, a podcast about minors sentenced to spend their entire lives in prison.

In the official announcement, Marjorie Miller – the recently elected Pulitzer Prize-winning administrator – called “Suave” a “brutally honest and immersive profile of a man re-entering society after serving more than 30 years in prison”.

The podcast — co-hosted by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa and award-winning journalist and producer Maggie Freleng — centers on Pennsylvania man David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez, who in 1988 was convicted of first-degree homicide. He was a minor at the time, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A few years later, in 1993, Hinojosa—then a new radio reporter—met Gonzalez at Graterford State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania while working on a story. What started as maintaining contact with a source inside the prison system has blossomed into an unusual decades-long relationship.

“We won a PULITZER!!! #suavepodcast”, Hinojosa tweeted shortly before 4 p.m. Monday. The tweet was accompanied by a video of the delighted reporter. “Guys. We won a Pulitzer! We won a Pulitzer Prize! We won a Pulitzer for Suave!” Hinojosa said to the camera, sounding almost in disbelief. “What? I didn’t even, I mean, it’s like, I never even thought about winning a Pulitzer, and we won a Pulitzer so –”

In 2010, Hinojosa founded Futuro Media, an independent New York-based nonprofit producing multimedia journalism. PRX is a Boston-based nonprofit public media company specializing in audio journalism and storytelling.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Hinojosa told Poynter early Monday night.

She described an atomic shift in audio journalism due to the way “Suave” was produced. “Among all that they could have chosen to recognize, the fact that they would recognize this type of production…it’s as if Futuro Media is now leading the way for a type of journalism that leaves its mark on American history” , said Hinojosa.

Earlier this year, “Suave” won Best Documentary or Best Multi-Part Audio Series at the 37th International Documentary Association Awards. She described the IDA as a powerful award for their industry.

RELATED TRAINING: Sign up for the Journalist’s Guide to Covering Prisons.

“But the Pulitzer is… most people know what a Pulitzer is, and so it really feels like we’re impacting the long arc of American journalism and the humanities in this country,” he said. she stated. “I come back to Frederick Douglass, which is the beginning of this arc of conscientious journalism. I consider this conscientious journalism because it was such a unique story.

From left, executive producer Maria Hinojosa, David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez and co-host Maggie Freleng record for the “Suave” podcast. (Photo by Futuro Studios)

Julieta Martinelli, senior producer at Futuro Media and co-producer of “Suave” with Freleng, said in a Twitter DM that it’s an honor and a dream to win a Pulitzer. “But I think for me personally it means so much more to win for a story that centers the humanity of people in prison, people who make mistakes, people who have done painful things but also been victimized. systemic inequity, racism and generational trauma itself,” she said.

During his call with Poynter, Hinojosa spoke about his longtime source and the subject of “Suave” – ​​David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez himself.

“I feel excited and also happy that my friend, my mentor, someone who has played such a big role in shaping my life, took the risk to bring this story to the masses and is now recognized at the highest level of journalism,” Suave said on the three-way call. “The story of ‘Suave’ is the story of millions of juvenile lifers caught up in the criminal justice system. So it’s not just a win for me, or Maria, and the entire Futuro production team. This is a victory for criminal justice reform because, now that history is at the highest level, there is no denying that the system needs to be reformed and that we need to treat minors better when it comes to dealing with the criminal justice system.

From the opening of “The Sentence”, the first of the “Suave” series, you can tell that Hinojosa has known Suave for a long time.

“What’s going on? Talk to me. Suave, I’m talking to you. What’s going on?” asks Hinojosa.

“I’m cool,” Suave replies. He seems a bit emotional.

“Suave”, Hinojosa, apparently sensing that Suave is not OK. “Forget Maggie is in the room. Forget that Maggie -“

Moments later, Suave breaks down crying. He says he never thought he would be locked in a room like this again. He repeats that he is cool.

“I know you’re cool, honey. You got out of jail,” Hinojosa said.

Suave says he had a mental flashback. He tells Hinojosa that he was sentenced to life.

“But I succeeded,” he said. “I got through it, so I’m fine.”

Then it’s Hinojosa’s turn to get emotional. She specifies that it was in this same studio that she took her calls from prison.

Over the years, Suave continued to reach out to Maria and she continued to answer her calls. The first 15 years of their contact were sporadic, but when Hinojosa heard that the Supreme Court might actually take up the case of lifers, she thought maybe Suave could get out of jail. Suave told Poynter that when you’re in jail, you feel lonely. He had few people he stayed in touch with outside – including the reporter.

“What kept me connected was knowing that someone in the world knows who I was. Even though I was locked up, shut out of everything…” Suave said. “The simple hearing someone’s voice in the free world gave me hope. Most of the time when I called Maria while I was in jail, Maria was in another town making a recording. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m on the border with Maria. I’m in DC’… I’m glad she took my phone calls because it showed me that my humanity wasn’t really lost.

Hinojosa said she knows people behind bars are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. She understood that there was a story to Suave’s experience.

“I want this to live on in the hearts of young American journalists of conscience because in this case I think it was the connection to humanity and our Futuro team was allowed to go there with humanity in the deep audio journalism…I think that’s why we won,” she said. “I think we brought the heart.”

About Ethel Nester

Check Also

Rapper Wakko the Kidd is shot dead during a robbery in North Hollywood

An aspiring rapper who was shot multiple times in a violent North Hollywood home robbery …