Black Voices

Chicago Journalists Say Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporting on City’s Communities is a ‘Paradigm Shift’


Chicago Journalists Say Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporting on City’s Communities is a ‘Paradigm Shift’

Stories about Black Chicago are now part of a national conversation thanks to a small but powerful local newsroom on the city’s South Side: the Invisible Institute

The nonprofit took home two Pulitzer Prize awards last week for their journalistic excellence, winning in both the Audio Reporting and Local Reporting categories.

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The audio win was for a seven-part podcast series called “You Didn’t See Nothin,” which revisits a 1997 hate crime targeting 13-year-old Lenard Clark, who was beaten into a coma by a group of young White men after riding his bike through the majority-White Bridgeport community.

A New York Times article from that time refers to Bridgeport as a neighborhood known for “producing mayors and racial hostility,” as it was home to the Daleys.

The podcast’s host, Yohance Lacour, was a 23-year-old journalist living in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Hyde Park when the assault happened. Through the episodes, we follow Lacour’s life as a young reporter covering the aftermath of the attack on Lenard.

Lacour found the process of storytelling to be healing.

“Because it was part memoir, I kind of had to examine myself, too,” Lacour said. “It was definitely therapeutic.”

The other Pulitzer winner, “Missing in Chicago,” is an investigative report done in partnership with the Invisible Institute’s data director Trina Reynolds-Tyler and City Bureau senior reporter Sarah Conway.

“Missing in Chicago” is a seven-part series that reveals a racial bias in the Chicago Police Department’s handling of missing persons cases that disproportionately affects Black women and girls. 

Conway and Reynolds-Tyler examined more than a million public records and interviewed families and friends with missing loved ones throughout a two-year investigation that found a pattern of delayed and mishandled cases. 

“There were a lot of things that came up that really connected the impact of neglect on homicides,” Reynolds-Tyler said. 

She said one of the most shocking things that came up during the investigation was the case of Desiree Robinson, a 16-year-old sex-trafficking victim whose case was prematurely closed. 

Four days after her case was closed, Desiree was found murdered. 

“It calls to question — was Chicago police even looking for her in the first place and could they have saved her life?” Reynolds-Tyler said.

Conway said the storytelling done at small, independent news organizations represents “a paradigm shift.” 

“That’s what’s really powerful about the podcast and the investigation,” Conway said. “We are looking at issues that have been covered for a long time, but we’re looking at them at the root. We’re seeing people as complex people that control their own stories, and that’s really important.”

Sarah Conway and Trina Reynolds-Tyler learn about their Pulitzer Prize win on May 6, 2024. (Efrain Soriano / City Bureau)Sarah Conway and Trina Reynolds-Tyler learn about their Pulitzer Prize win on May 6, 2024. (Efrain Soriano / City Bureau)


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