“I’ve always seen journalism as a public service,” says Emily G. Harris ’89 B.A., one of four Yale alumni currently working at the multiplatform journalism project Reveal. “It’s a way to bridge the divide, and provide information for a better-informed citizenry.”
Launched four years ago by the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, Reveal is a weekly radio show as well as a podcast and website shining a light on serious and underreported stories that affect the most vulnerable. Its commitment to uncovering truths has drawn alumni interested in putting their critical thinking skills, honed at Yale, to good use.
Reveal recently won two Peabody Awards — for “Kept Out,” a show that looked at how people of color have been systematically denied mortgage loans in 61 metro areas; and for “Monumental Lies,” which explores the history behind Southerners’ complicated relationships to Confederate monuments and to monuments honoring Spanish colonization.
Katharine Mieszkowski ’93 B.A., a senior reporter at Reveal who worked on “Kept Out,” which was also a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, says the investigation into modern-day redlining is one of the most important stories she’s covered. The team combed through 31 million government mortgage records and found pervasive racism in lending practices. The show led to investigations in six states and new legislation introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
“We were able to bring out what that experience is like when someone says ‘you can’t have a loan’ and you’re not sure why,” says Mieszkowski. “And we were able to tell the broader story of how race plays a role.”
Harris calls Reveal “hard-core data-driven journalism with human narratives. That’s the nexus of where journalism is most powerful,” she says.
In his contribution to the “Monumental Lies” episode, reporter and producer Stan Alcorn ’07 B.A. covered a story that had intrigued him for 20 years — that of a controversy over the memorialization of Juan de Oñate in New Mexico that exploded after a statue of Oñate had its foot removed in protest of Oñate’s treatment of native people. Alcorn was part of the inaugural Yale Journalism Initiative and took a seminar from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. He was also involved in one of Yale’s most historic sports pranks — when a group of undergraduates convinced Harvard fans to hold up signs that read “We Suck” during the 2004 Harvard-Yale football game.
In telling the story of the statue controversy, the episode tackles much bigger issues: colonization, divergent views on history, and how to best honor the past. “The reason radio is so powerful,” Alcorn says, “is that you can’t help identifying with, and being reached by, another person’s voice. You can’t help hearing the human impact.”
The most recent alum to join the Reveal team is Aura Bogado ’12 B.A., who has been dedicated to telling immigrant stories since she attended community college in California and worked at a local radio station. Bogado came to Yale as part of the Eli Whitney Students Program, designed for applicants with exceptional abilities and nontraditional backgrounds. A first-generation immigrant, she says, “I never thought I would go to college.” But wherever she went, she covered the immigrant experience, delving deeper into the impact of policy on families, and their motivations for leaving.
“Immigration is a very misunderstood topic,” Bogado says. “Growing up as an immigrant, I knew the way people experienced policies, and the stories didn’t reflect that.” Since joining Reveal, she’s followed the stories of family separation at the border through interviews with children and their parents. Her reporting has exposed the government’s use of clandestine shelters to house migrant children with mental illness; the use of an unlicensed vacant office building to hold children in Phoenix; and the routine drugging of children in detainment.
The four alumni join a significant number of their peers who have pursued careers in radio journalism and podcasts, including Brian Reed ’07 B.A., host of “S-Town”; Krista Tippett ’94 M.Div., host of “On Being”; Wesley Morris ’97 B.A., co-host of “Still Processing”; Michael Barbaro ’02 B.A., host of “The Daily”; and Martine Powers ’11 B.A., host of “Post Reports.”
“The years of college are hugely formative,” says Alcorn. “The idea of what I wanted to do in journalism that started to form when I was at Yale — turning investigative reporting into rich, complicated stories — is what I’m doing now. I just didn’t know at the time that you could do that on the radio.”