In a talk at Brandeis on Monday, Nov. 15, the Boston Globe team behind Pulitzer-Prize winning article “Blind Spot” spoke about the process of creating the article and their experiences in journalism. The Boston Globe staff explained that they knew they had a potentially big story about truck driving when they were “shocked” and “outraged” by the information they covered.
Each of the panelists spoke about their individual roles in the process. Brendan McCarthy, Deputy Project Editor, explained that the team was looking into one accident, but learned that it was caused by a driver who should not have been legally allowed on the road. From there, the team explored if this type of situation was common.
“We just kept pressing, and quickly opened the door to the scandal,” he said. “ We looked at each other, and said, ‘Wow, this is terrible. But how big is this?’” Matt Rocheleau, the data expert, continued, discussing the various ways information was gathered and analyzed.
He explained that they quickly realized that this was far from a one-time occurrence, and that this problem was happening all over the country. “But state by state, as we were asking about this one driver … we started to learn that they had similar problems … all across the country. It was just pretty startling to learn all these things as the days and weeks unfolded.”
The panelists all agreed that gathering information was a struggle, but that each new challenge in discovering the truth further proved the importance of following this lead.
Evan Allen, one of the reporters, also struggled in gathering information. Allen said that she found very little regulation in the industry, both in terms of individual drivers and the companies that employed them. She said that getting on the ground and trying to investigate these circumstances made her concerned because she was “ring[ing] doorbells that don’t work and find[ing] these crappy little churches” where trucking companies are operating out of. This concern helped fuel the team to further expand this story. Vernal Coleman, another reporter, recalls being “shocked” and “outraged” when learning that, despite the faults of the truckers and the “crappiness” of the companies, the state was doing very little to prevent further deaths from happening.
Director of Audience Experience Heather Ciras and Senior Video Producer Caitlin Healy worked to find ways to make this more appealing to readers. Ciras wondered “how are we going to cut through the noise … and show that this is a huge problem?” Healy worked with visual media, even making a trailer for this piece, in order to grab attention, saying that she let the medium of video “do what it does best … to tell a human story.” Reporter Laura Crimaldi provided updates on the impact of the story. She said that there are court proceedings happening for some of the truck drivers highlighted in “Blind Spot,” an occurrence that she called “unusual.”
The team reiterated that their frustration was what fueled them during the process of creating this story. They all emphasized that the work was hard, but that they knew it would be meaningful if they could bring awareness about an issue that concerned them deeply. They won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in June of this year.
This event took place in the Gerstenzang Science Library on Monday, Nov. 15. The event was hosted by the Brandeis Journalism Program and co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Office of the President, Office of the Provost, American Studies Program and School of Arts and Sciences Co-curricular Fund.