Chicago's Invisible Institute wins two Pulitzer Prizes

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INVISIBLE INSTITUTE WINS TWO PULITZER PRIZES FOR YOU DIDN'T SEE NOTHIN PODCAST AND MISSING IN CHICAGO INVESTIGATION

Our audio team, Yohance Lacour, Sarah Geis, Erisa Apantaku, Dana Brozost-Kelleher, Bill Healy, and Alison Flowers, with editorial support from Jamie Kalven, won the Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting for the You Didn't See Nothin podcast. Our director of data Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway of City Bureau were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for their series Missing in Chicago.

CHICAGO, IL – South Side nonprofit newsroom Invisible Institute was awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prizes for Audio Reporting and Local Reporting. Today's announcement follows the 12-person newsroom's 2021 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. The team was a finalist for Audio Reporting for our Somebody podcast the same year. The central Invisible Institute reporters of both stories, Yohance Lacour and trina reynolds-tyler, began their work towards these investigations at the organization more than six years ago, and both are their first major journalism projects.

You Didn't See Nothin, a limited series podcast from USG Audio and the Invisible Institute, follows host Yohance Lacour as he revisits a 1997 hate crime on the South Side of Chicago that introduced him to the world of investigative journalism, examining how its ripple effects have shaped Lacour's own life over the past quarter-century. Using archival audio and new interviews, You Didn't See Nothin combines memoir and investigation in this innovative series to create new forms of audio journalism.

"I want to dedicate this to Sekou Dancy, my rappy, my best friend, my brother, who passed in 2022. I think about how Michelle Alexander said in The New Jim Crow that mass incarceration is the civil rights issue of our time – I hope that the world sees what can happen when you give Black men a second chance and what can happen when you offer support and opportunity instead of imprisonment. We have a lot of talented minds behind those walls," said Yohance Lacour, the host of You Didn't See Nothin, who joined the Invisible Institute in 2017 after coming home from a decade-long prison sentence. "Hopefully this is just a glimpse of what you are removing from society when you lock someone up. This couldn't happen without the streets of Chicago."

You Didn't See Nothin has also won Best Serialized Story from Third Coast International Audio Festival, 2023 International Documentary Association (IDA) Award for Best Multi-Part Audio or Documentary Series, the American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine Awards 2024 Podcasting Award, and is a finalist for the Peabody Award.

Previously, our audio team was named a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting for the Somebody podcast.

For two years, reporters Sarah Conway (City Bureau) and trina reynolds-tyler (Invisible Institute) investigated how the Chicago Police Department (CPD) handles missing person cases and found a pattern of neglect and discrepancies in the police response. From 2000 to 2021, Chicago Police categorized 99.8 percent of missing person cases as "not criminal in nature." Our seven-part investigation calls this number into question. Reporters identified 11 cases that were miscategorized as "closed non-criminal" in the missing persons data despite being likely homicides — more than doubling the number of official homicides in missing persons police data. These 11 cases were part of a much larger pattern of neglect.

This reporting emerged from a novel use of data science to identify hidden patterns in Chicago Police complaints. Led by trina reynolds-tyler at the Invisible Institute, the Beneath the Surface project combines machine learning with community participation to build sustainable research models.

"My parents don't even know what a Pulitzer is. I am hopeful that journalists are more critical of data and commit to telling full stories of people, not just in the worst moments of their lives, but the moments before and after it," said trina reynolds-tyler, director of data and Beneath the Surface, who joined the Invisible Institute as an AmeriCorps fellow in 2016. "I want to uplift the loved ones of the missing people profiled in this story. These awards are a massive honor, and still, I recognize that awards for this work will mean little without any impact on the future of how police investigate missing person cases, and how communities are equipped to respond to them."

Missing in Chicago has also been named a finalist for a Driehaus Award for Investigative Reporting, shortlisted for the Sigma Award, and won the 2024 Izzy Award. Last month, Mayor Brandon Johnson filed a resolution calling for a hearing about missing person cases and the creation of a dedicated task force. trina reynolds-tyler and Sarah Conway will testify at an upcoming City Council public safety committee hearing on their findings. This development is a direct result of both our reporting and our commitment to ongoing public conversation.

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Invisible Institute is a nonprofit journalism production company on the South Side of Chicago. We work to enhance the capacity of citizens to hold public institutions accountable. Our Beneath the Surface project utilizes data analysis and narrative justice practices to investigate gender-based violence at the hands of police including instances where police neglected to provide help.

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