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Murrow Awards, Overall Excellence, "Alabama 2019" Alabama Public Radio


Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence, titled “Alabama 2019.”

In March, twenty three residents of the southeast Alabama town of Beauregard were killed by an EF-4 tornado. Peggy Hutchinson lost her home in the storm and told APR news it was the sound of the trees she remembered. “It was a pin…pop, pop, pop, like firecrackers. I thought ‘lord, this is it.’”

Residents of Mobile also spoke out over a controversial plan to build a new Intertstate-10 bridge over Mobile Bay. Planners wanted to include tolls, which critics complained would cost motorists up to $6,000 per year. APR reported on these concerns one day before the State of Alabama scrapped the plan.

The Alabama Crimson Tide also felt the sting of defeat on a national level twice in 2019. The college football team lost the 2019 title to Clemson in a game called a “knock out” for Bama. The team later lost to the Louisiana State University Tigers in a home game in Tuscaloosa attended by President Trump. APR also took listeners to the Rattlesnake Rodeo in Opp, the launch of 5,000 model rockets to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 manned moon landing, and the annual Distinguished Young Women competition in Mobile and the volunteer “moms” who run the show. APR listeners also heard from Stacy Barrington, of Mobile, who remembered her late uncle Jerry Maren. He was an actor who played a munchkin in the “lollypop guild” in the movie classic “The Wizard of Oz” which celebrated its eightieth anniversary in 2019.

The two member Alabama Public Radio news team also spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the trafficking issue in Alabama. This audio montage started off the series. It all began with a number.


That’s the total number of on-line sex trafficking ads in Alabama, just in 2017, as counted by the University of Alabama’s College of Social Work. Our reporting is that this type of web activity is a reliable metric to track sex trafficking since, in Alabama, it’s where traffickers come out in the open. APR news built on that earlier figure by commissioning a study by the cybercrime lab at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. These analysts generated a one-day “snap shot” of verified sex trafficking ads in Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville. The result for these four small cities outpaced numbers that day for Atlanta, a main hub for trafficking in the southeast.

“Familial” trafficking is considered a primary concern in Alabama. That’s where a mother, father, aunt, or uncle is the trafficker and younger family members are the victims. APR news sought out the project leader of a study on familial trafficking in Mississippi which found that this type of trafficking was the main source of sexual exploitation in the four counties that were researched. Officials in Alabama consider that Mississippi study to be the “gold standard” on the issue, and directly applicable to the situation in Alabama. APR focused on similarities between the two states including poverty, a lack of education, and culture which, in Mississippi, are considered key indicators of familial trafficking.

APR also interviewed women representing two generations of sex trafficking survivors who described “how it happened to me.” Their stories reflect the belief among law enforcement and survivor support groups that traffickers use psychological tricks to draw victims in, and then resort to coercion to force them into the sex industry.

APR also investigated solutions. The University of Alabama’s College of Social Work is creating an internet database to be used jointly by trafficking victims, law enforcement, and survivor support groups. The organizers of the project say changing mindsets among these groups is the true challenge, with each side thinking the others are the “enemy.” APR studied efforts to change these mindsets.

APR student reporter Tina Turner focused on how teenaged members of Alabama’s LBGTQ community are statistically more likely to be trafficked. She visited a teen shelter in Huntsville where the majority of the young people identify as bisexual, because they’d been sold to both men and women. The result appears to be these teens don’t know what their gender is.


Pat Duggins outro

Stan Ingold outro

Jonathan Holle outro

Tina Turner outro

Guy Busby outro

Mike Dumas outro

Beauregard tornado

Funeral for Tuscaloosa Police officer Dornell Cousette

Apollo 11 commemorative rocket launch

Remembering “Uncle Jerry” who played a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz

I-10 toll bridge controversy

Crimson Tide loses title game to Clemson

Rattlesnake Rodeo

Crimson Tide loses to LSU

“Meet the Moms” at the Distinguished Young Women Competition

Huntsville’s contribution to the Apollo 11 manned moon landing

Mobile restaurants lead the way on single use plastics

“Selling Kids: Human Trafficking in Alabama”


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