https://reveal-player.s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/731_Reveal_PC+(1).mp3

Louisville high schooler Satchel Walton knew something was off about the PowerPoint presentation used by the Kentucky State Police to train new recruits. The slides urged officers to be “ruthless killers” and quoted both Robert E. Lee and Adolf Hitler. Walton reached out to Reveal to ask about our past reporting on police officers in White supremacist Facebook groups, then co-wrote a story with his brother about the training presentation for his high school newspaper, the Manual RedEye. After Walton broke the story, the state police commissioner resigned. Guest host Ike Sriskandarajah talks with Walton about how he reported the story and the change it’s brought to the state. 

Then, Reveal reporting fellow Noor Hindi documents an overlooked part of the housing crisis. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government issued a ban on evictions. But as Hindi reports, in Akron, Ohio, evictions kept happening despite the ban. She watched 132 housing hearings this past fall – and found that many renters at those hearings were evicted. Hindi follows the story of mother and nursing-home worker Amber Moreland, who lost her rental home during the pandemic, despite being an essential worker who tried to apply for federal aid. 

Next, CapRadio reporter Sarah Mizes-Tan looks into the racial disparities around the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. Earlier this year, Reveal found that in major cities across the country, the rate of PPP lending was higher in majority-White neighborhoods than in neighborhoods of color. We shared our data with local reporters around the country, and Mizes-Tan found something else: In Sacramento, California, the disparity was even more pronounced for places of worship. There, three times as much money went to places of worship in White neighborhoods compared with those in neighborhoods where people of color are the majority. 

Reporters featured on this episode worked with Reveal’s local reporting networks. If you’re a journalist, learn more about Reveal’s Reporting Networks.

Dig Deeper

Read: Manual RedEye high school newspaper reporting on Kentucky State Police 

Read: Home in Akron – a news collaboration reporting on housing issues in Akron, Ohio 

Read: Rampant racial disparities plagued how billions of dollars in PPP loans were distributed in the U.S.

Credits

Reporters: Sarah Mizes-Tan, Noor Hindi and Mohamed Al Elew | Lead producer: Ike Sriskandarajah | Producer: Amy Mostafa | Editors: Aaron Glantz, Brett Myers and Cynthia Rodriguez | Digital editor: Nina Martin | Additional research: Grace Oldham |  Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Steven Rascón and Claire Mullen | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Ike Sriskandarajah

Special thanks: CapRadio, NPR’s California Newsroom and James Miller at duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Kentucky.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

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Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah in for Al Letson. Every week you tune into the show, we bring you some of the best investigative reporting. The stories we tell take months, sometimes years to nail down. And when we finally publish those investigations, we couldn’t possibly fit in everything.
Ike Sriskandara…:I think that’s why Al ends the show with, “There’s always more to the story.” So when we have more data and records than we could possibly fit into a story, we share those leads with local reporters who can. And that’s what this week’s show is all about, the small publications and local reporters who are making big waves. And I wanted to start with one of my favorites. It builds on something my colleagues worked on a few years ago.
Ike Sriskandara…:In 2019, Reveal found hundreds of current and former law enforcement members who joined online hate groups. In 2020, a rookie reporter from Louisville reached out to us and asked how many Kentucky cops were in these groups. We knew of four. But he had a scoop that bigotry on the force was not just being expressed online, it was being taught. And his story sparked a scandal so big that the governor had to respond. So let’s start there.
Governor Andy B…:Hello, I hope everybody is having a safe election day. But we are still fighting this worldwide pandemic.
Ike Sriskandara…:It’s November 3rd, 2020, and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear looks tired. He’s doing a socially distant COVID briefing from a podium flanked by flags. He’s wearing one of those navy blue zip-up jackets that governors in the movies always seem to have when they’re touring disaster sites.
Governor Andy B…:So we’re going to get through this. We’re going get through this together.
Ike Sriskandara…:At that time, COVID numbers were surging here, just like they were almost everywhere. But at this press conference, reporters had another question.
Speaker 4:Hey, Governor, can I ask if you asked for Commissioner Brewer’s resignation because of the incident with the training manual and have you become aware of any other incidents in which such material may have been used?
Ike Sriskandara…:The previous week, a story broke about a Kentucky State Police Training slideshow. This slideshow, which they showed to more than 100 new recruits, featured a quote from Adolf Hitler. It also urged officers to be ruthless killers.
Governor Andy B…:With regards to the commissioner, he submitted his resignation-
Ike Sriskandara…:After the story published, Commissioner Rodney Brewer, a longtime veteran on the force stepped down.
Governor Andy B…:So we are conducting a top-to-bottom review of training materials. We have identified at least one other PowerPoint that appears to contain some of the same information from the same-
Ike Sriskandara…:The reporter who broke this story didn’t get to ask any questions in this press conference. In fact, he hadn’t even been invited. Maybe that’s because he’s a teenager.
Satchel Walton:My name is Satchel Walton. I’m 17 years old. I’ll be a senior next year at duPont Manual High School in Louisville.
Ike Sriskandara…:Satchel looks a little bit like he stepped out of a Wes Anderson movie. He’s got a fedora, long hair, round glasses, and he loves the news. Satchel along with his younger brother and co-reporter, Cooper, wrote their first story for the Manual RedEye, a high school newspaper, and it was a bombshell.
Speaker 6:Under Fire and under scrutiny as Kentucky State Police are under the spotlight-
Speaker 7:Congressman John Yarmuth tweeted, “As a Kentuckian, I am angry and embarrassed. And as a Jewish American, I am genuinely disturbed that there are people like this-
Ike Sriskandara…:When I caught up with Satchel, he was sitting in the same place he’d spent a lot of time reporting, his unfinished attic, under support beams and fluffy tufts of insulation.
Ike Sriskandara…:When they make your story into a movie, that coming of age story, where do you think it would start?
Satchel Walton:It was complete luck, really. My father is a lawyer and one of his partners had a case about a police shooting in Eastern Kentucky. He got through discovery presentation from the Kentucky State Police in which they quoted Hitler. And my dad texted the family group chat and said, “Oh, my God.”
Ike Sriskandara…:How did you know that this was something you wanted to dig into?
Satchel Walton:It was just an instinctual reaction. You can’t be quoting Hitler in a police training. That’s insane. I couldn’t believe it. When I first saw those images, I thought they must have been photoshopped or something.
Satchel Walton:But I’ve got the whole slideshow here, let me see. They’ve got this American flag and bald eagle in the background. Here we go. We’ve got this, “The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence,” Adolf Hitler. It attributes it right there.
Ike Sriskandara…:Whoa.
Satchel Walton:Yeah. And that’s not like something nice that we said. It just so happened to have been said by an evil maniac. That was something Hitler said that is like, it sounds like a core tenet of fascism.
Ike Sriskandara…:Okay, so you get this blockbuster tip. And what do you do next, to make sure that it’s true? I think my first thought would be like, “No way that that could be a part of a police training.”
Satchel Walton:Well, the first thing to do was to look at the data on the slideshow itself on the file and look at when it was created, look at who created it. And that seemed to line up. How do you make sure that with your non-professional news outlet that no one’s ever heard of, how do you verify that everything is correct?
Ike Sriskandara…:Are these steps, things that you instinctively knew how to do? Or were they things you had to learn as you were doing them?
Satchel Walton:It’s definitely not something I would have known how to do if Cooper and I hadn’t been in a team and on a bunch of calls with the RedEye editor and with the adviser.
Ike Sriskandara…:Satchel says one of the big things missing from the story was a quote from the Kentucky State Police.
Satchel Walton:And then eventually, the spokesperson, he said the quotes referencing Hitler quotes are used for their content and relevance to the topic addressed in the presentation. The presentation touches on several aspects of service, selflessness, and moral guidance. All of these topics go to the fundamentals of law enforcement, such as treating everyone equally, service to the public and being guided by the law.
Ike Sriskandara…:Are you kidding me?
Satchel Walton:No, that’s the original quote.
Ike Sriskandara…:Oh, he defended it?
Satchel Walton:Yeah. No, and that’s basically the whole thing. He didn’t condemn it and say something better, but yeah.
Ike Sriskandara…:You upload the article, and then what happens? You get to splash some cold water on your face and take a walk around the block?
Satchel Walton:Yeah, that was basically the plan. I told the friend of mine who lives a couple blocks down the road, asked if she’d wanted to play a card game at the park on Friday afternoon. I just wanted to think about something else and relax for a little while. But unfortunately, my phone kept ringing and it was one of the advisers saying, “Satchel, you got to check your emails, answer your phone, the governor spokesperson wants to talk to us and get a quote now.”
Ike Sriskandara…:Satchel, can you tell me like watching this story go out into the world? What does it look like from where you’re sitting?
Satchel Walton:Once Martin Luther King’s daughter was tweeting about it, once Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent from New York Times was retweeting the article, I was just shocked, excited, and I knew it would demand a big response locally.
Satchel Walton:October 30th, we published the first story about Hitler quotes in the presentation. A couple of days later in November 2nd, we published a short piece that the Kentucky State Police Commissioner Ronnie Brewer had resigned after 33 years.
Ike Sriskandara…:This is a guy who’s been in the Kentucky State Police for somewhere around twice as long as you’ve been alive.
Satchel Walton:Yes.
Ike Sriskandara…:And he steps down as pretty much a direct result of your reporting.
Satchel Walton:Yes, as a consequence of these articles, he is forced to step down. And the spokesperson who gave us the original statement defending the Hitler quotes, still works with the Kentucky State Police but has been reassigned.
Ike Sriskandara…:And then you didn’t stop there?
Satchel Walton:No. Someone who works within law enforcement anonymously contacted us about a Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training that had used a clip from an Antisemitic, neo-Nazi film companies and included a Nazi logo in it.
Ike Sriskandara…:Okay, so to recap, there’s one training slideshow that quotes Hitler. Then there’s a different law enforcement agency in the state that uses a symbol from neo-Nazis in their training video. It sort of feels like too much Nazi stuff to just be a coincidence. It leads me to think that maybe there’s some kind of affinity between Kentucky law enforcement and the hate groups that are whistling to them.
Satchel Walton:Maybe, and it’s not too high pitched of a dog whistle to put Hitler quotes in there. That one is pretty obvious.
Ike Sriskandara…:That’s right. That’s true. Yes, it is. That’s a foghorn.
Ike Sriskandara…:Satchel and his team keep reporting. They published five stories about the Nazi logo, Hitler quote, and quotes from Confederate General Robert E. Lee, all used inside training materials. Eventually, Governor Beshear agrees to talk with the paper.
Speaker 8:Thank you for meeting with us.
Governor Andy B…:Thank you for doing what you do.
Ike Sriskandara…:Satchel and two student reporters joined Beshear on a Zoom. It feels like half interview, half trip to the principal’s office. But in this case, the principal is the one getting grilled.
Satchel Walton:And I’m in my nice little hat, green jacket and white shirt and an unfinished attic that doesn’t look quite as professional and presentable, but that’s all right.
Satchel Walton:Our first question is, sir, about the video we recently published an article about with the Nazi symbol at the start. Is DOCJT’s investigation determined who included the video yet?
Governor Andy B…:DOCJT is still looking top to bottom-
Ike Sriskandara…:On the call, Governor Beshear promises a top-to-bottom investigation. But more than half a year later, Satchel tells me they still don’t have answers to some fundamental questions.
Satchel Walton:We’d still like to know how long trainings like this were used. We’d still like to know what the approval process within the Kentucky State Police was like, and how the state’s top-to-bottom investigation is going or did go or if it ever happened or started or existed.
Ike Sriskandara…:Why do you think the story took off the way that it did?
Satchel Walton:Louisville had been the site of lots and lots of protests and conversations about racial justice and about policing in 2020, because it was where Breonna Taylor had been shot in March of 2020 by the Louisville Metro Police Department. And so within that context, I think there is a special awareness of the sort of issues that these series of articles discussed about policing and racial justice and hatred and bigotry in this case.
Ike Sriskandara…:So what do you take away from this experience?
Satchel Walton:I think that this series shows that it’s shocking enough that there’s one guy within the Kentucky State Police who somehow, someway thought it was acceptable to include quotes from Adolf Hitler and from Robert E. Lee. But it’s even more shocking perhaps that there were 120 people at least who saw Hitler quotes in presentations, who were training to be officers with Kentucky State Police, and who didn’t speak up about that, who didn’t file a complaint and this somehow went on and the culture accepted it for multiple years.
Ike Sriskandara…:I understand that you have received a type of honor from the state and that you’re a governor’s scholar which involves an academic program where you will meet the governor?
Satchel Walton:Yeah, so the governor scholarship program in Kentucky is a sort of summer camp for the what they said the best and brightest kids in Kentucky. I applied for that program a couple days after the first article is published. So, I casually dropped as one of my achievements that I published that article that got the State Police Commissioner to resign right at the bottom of the resume there.
Ike Sriskandara…:If you do run into the governor at the governor’s scholar program, you think you’ll sneak in a question?
Satchel Walton:How’s that top-to-bottom investigation going, buddy? Yeah, maybe so. It’s a good idea, maybe I will.
Ike Sriskandara…:Satchel, it was an honest to goodness pleasure speaking with you.
Satchel Walton:Thank you for having me.
Ike Sriskandara…:We followed up with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. He told us the Kentucky State Police finished its internal investigation. Now, all sworn personnel are required to participate in new trainings about racism, and have completed an online course about The Holocaust. After review of all their training materials, they said they didn’t find any more Hitler or Robert E. Lee quotes.
Ike Sriskandara…:Reveal’s Byard Duncan produced that story. Coming up next, the CDC tried to stop evictions. But in some places, that didn’t happen.
Speaker 9:It will be the judgment of the court that restitution will be issued in favor of the plaintiff for failure to pay rent.
Ike Sriskandara…:Kicked out of your house over Zoom, that’s next on Reveal.
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Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah. This pandemic is unprecedented in so many ways. But like every day, especially at the beginning, I was hearing about something new that didn’t seem possible. And one of those things, a ban on evictions, first by Congress in March, then later the CDC stepped in and widened it.
Ike Sriskandara…:And I remember thinking, “They can do that?” But there was, Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act, a temporary halt in residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. That ban ended July 31st. But now, the CDC has stepped in again and banned evictions until October in areas where the Delta variant has spread and where infection rates are high.  BUT, in some states, evictions have been happening all along… including Ohio.
Ike Sriskandara…:In Akron, one of the state’s largest cities, at least 786 evictions were granted from April of 2020 through mid-June of this year. The hearings were held on Zoom and the magistrates running them were sometimes churning through 15 or 20 cases a day.
Speaker 9:We’re going to need to move quickly because I do have multiple other hearings this half hour. So if we can get directly to the points that need to be made-
Ike Sriskandara…:Reveal fellow, Noor Hindi, was watching. It was September of 2020, and the infection rate in Akron was continuing to rise.
Noor Hindi:I would wake up every morning at 9:00 a.m., open up my laptop and watch until about noon.
Ike Sriskandara…:The connections were spotty, and often the renter’s didn’t show up.
Speaker 9:The defendant is not present in this courtroom here today. As service of this cause of action was proper, and it is now 10:55, we will proceed in the absence of the defendant.
Ike Sriskandara…:And when they did show up, it was almost always without a lawyer and without knowing their rights.
Speaker 11:Do you possibly know anything that I could do or should be doing to maybe help me to stay in the house because I have no … I’m waiting on my money.
Speaker 9:I can’t give you that advice. I know you may be able to call 211. I don’t know, Miss Hindi, if you want to refer him to anywhere? Do you know of anywhere he can go to?
Ike Sriskandara…:Miss Hindi is Noor Hindi, who is joining me now. Hey, Noor.
Noor Hindi:Hey, Ike.
Ike Sriskandara…:So this judge is asking you to give the man who’s about to be evicted advice?
Noor Hindi:Yeah, it was really weird and sort of shocking because I had not been asked to speak during a court hearing before. But this man seemed like he was really in a panic and didn’t have a lot of resources available to him. So the magistrate did ask me to step in and help.
Ike Sriskandara…:Were you able to help?
Noor Hindi:Yeah. So I visited him at his house and found out that he was a senior citizen who had been paying his rent with social security for years. But he said that there was some kind of glitch in the system, and that his money wasn’t coming in. And so he got behind on his rent. And like a lot of people I saw, he didn’t know about the moratorium.
Ike Sriskandara…:So this was happening a lot? I understand you watch 132 hearings in the fall? How many of those people were actually evicted?
Noor Hindi:About 70% of those 132 hearings were cases where people were evicted. And something I noticed is that most of these tenants showed up by themselves without a lawyer. And on top of that, the hearings were really fast. Most of them were over in like 10 minutes or less. So imagine trying to represent yourself in that amount of time.
Noor Hindi:And this is what happened to this woman named Amber Moreland. I thought that she would be the perfect candidate for this eviction moratorium. And if it was going to work for anyone, it should have worked for her.
Ike Sriskandara…:What was it about her that made her the perfect candidate?
Noor Hindi:So Amber is, 39 years old. She’s working at a nursing home during the pandemic, so she’s an essential worker. And she had lost part of her income because of the pandemic.
Ike Sriskandara…:It seems like she should be covered.
Noor Hindi:It seemed like it, and that’s why her case was so shocking to me.
Ike Sriskandara…:So did you follow up with her?
Noor Hindi:I did. I visited her house I set up note aside because she wasn’t home, putting my name and phone number. And a few days later, she called me and she herself was really enraged at what had happened.
Noor Hindi:Did you feel like you were able to testify properly?
Amber Moreland:No.
Noor Hindi:Why not?
Amber Moreland:She didn’t hear nothing I was saying.
Noor Hindi:So, Ike, before we delve into the hearing, I really just want to tell you a little bit more about who Amber is.
Ike Sriskandara…:Please do.
Noor Hindi:One of the first things to know about Amber is she’s working with some of the most vulnerable populations during the pandemic. And when I meet her in her home, she’s living in one of these houses that really wasn’t kept up to date over the years. And she’s there with her 15-year-old son. She loves this home at first and it has this big backyard.
Amber Moreland:It had a fire pit. And I don’t know, it was just a clear open view in the back. But what I didn’t like is it was old and needed to be redone.
Noor Hindi:She soon realizes that the house she lives in is managed by a landlord in Akron, who has a reputation for renting rundown homes to low income tenants.
Amber Moreland:It’d just be water coming in. Not even drips, it was like literally water coming in, in my room. There’s so many wears, it looked like the bathroom walls was crying, the hallway walls, they’re the same thing.
Ike Sriskandara…:So she’s living in this dilapidated house and kind of dealing with it. Then what happens?
Noor Hindi:So things escalated for Amber at this point. The pandemic hits. She’s on the front lines. She’s watching COVID rip through these nursing homes. And she says she was working in this lockdown ward for COVID patients just watching one after another die. And at some point, the nursing home tells her she’s not allowed to work at multiple facilities for fear of spreading the virus from one nursing home to the other.
Amber Moreland:Once the pandemic happened, I got pulled into the nursing home and they told me that I basically had to choose. Since my mother was at the nursing home at the time, of course, I chose the nursing home.
Ike Sriskandara…:So her mom was living at one of the facilities that she was working at?
Noor Hindi:Yeah, so this is May of 2020. Amber’s mom is in hospice. She’s got a lot of different illnesses including a heart problem. And a few months later, she dies. And this is a big loss for Amber.
Amber Moreland:I could call my mom and tell her about anybody. Of course, she would, after me and her get done talking, tell everybody in the family. But it was more or less like she was my actual best friend.
Noor Hindi:I think this remembrance encapsulates Amber’s love for her mom and how she really felt that this was her best friend and her rock in the world. It was somebody that she could always lean on for support and humor and comfort. It was really hard for Amber after her mom dies, but she keeps going. And she knows she has to figure this out. But she’s no longer working multiple jobs. She’s losing hours and money.
Noor Hindi:So she’s calling Legal Aid. She’s calling 211. She’s learning about the moratorium and that she can apply for rental assistance. And she’s also calling homeless shelters because she’s expecting at this point that she’s going to lose her home. And even though she can’t afford her full $800 a month of rent, she’s still making partial payments to Gary Thomas. He’s listed as the property manager, while his son Lee is listed as the landlord.
Amber Moreland:As much as I could, I made sure like if I got any piece of change, I gave it to Mr. Gary. After I did for my kids, like I’m going to never let my kids go without, because we’ve been down that road before. So I’m going to feed my kids. I’m going to make sure lights, gas and electric is on here before I give you something.
Ike Sriskandara…:So isn’t this where the moratorium should have kicked in for her?
Noor Hindi:Right, but here’s what happens instead.
Speaker 9:Mr. Thomas and Ms. Moreland, can you both please raise your right hands? Ms. Moreland, can you please raise your right hand, ma’am?
Amber Moreland:It’s delayed. My screen won’t come. It won’t come up on my screen.
Ike Sriskandara…:That doesn’t sound like she’s off to a good start.
Noor Hindi:Totally. And let me just step back and walk you through this. This is really high stakes, and it’s on Zoom and the magistrate is in one Zoom box. Gary is in another Zoom box. His attorney is in another Zoom box. And Amber is alone, talking to them through the speakerphone of the magistrate’s court phone at this point. So you can’t even see her and she can’t see them.
Ike Sriskandara…:Amber has come prepared but she’s having some problems. What’s her plan for staying in her house?
Noor Hindi:So what Amber is really trying to get across is that she’s tried to apply for federal CARES Act funding.
Ike Sriskandara…:CARES Act, that’s the huge federal relief package, right?
Noor Hindi:Yeah. And based on what I observed during the hearings, renters either had to show that they’d applied for CARES Act funding or they had to fill out this form through the CDC that basically stated they’d been impacted by the pandemic and they had to have given that to their landlord. But the problem is that some people either didn’t know about that declaration form or didn’t know about the assistance.
Noor Hindi:And they’d come to court and they’d get asked, “Hey, did you apply for assistance?” And they would say no, and they would explain that they have in fact been impacted by COVID, either through getting sick or losing their job, or getting their hours cut. But by that point, it was too late. But in Amber’s case, she really did try to apply for that funding.
Speaker 9:Do you have any application for rental assistance funding?
Amber Moreland:Yes, ma’am. I really do have an application and I actually had … I went through the CARES Act programs for them to even pay up whatever I owed Mr. Gary. And I’ve got an email from them actually this morning. They said my house wasn’t registered through the city.
Speaker 9:The rental assistance told you that?
Amber Moreland:Yeah, I got the email right here. It’s in my phone.
Ike Sriskandara…:Noor, what’s happening here?
Noor Hindi:This isn’t something I encountered a lot. But for Amber, it’s this really confusing and sort of pivotal moment. She’s trying really hard to explain to the magistrate that she’s tried to access this funding but hasn’t been able to. And it’s because her landlord is not registered with the county, like the rental property is not registered.
Ike Sriskandara…:So because her landlord didn’t register his house properly, Amber can’t get federal assistance?
Noor Hindi:Right. And the county instituted this rule, basically stating that if you’re not registered with the county, you cannot benefit from this federal funding.
Ike Sriskandara…:She’s an essential worker who lost income during the pandemic. She’s working with COVID patients on top of that. She’s exactly the kind of person the CDC doesn’t want ending up homeless. But she can’t access this federal program because her landlord didn’t file the right paperwork?
Noor Hindi:It ultimately ends up punishing Amber rather than penalizing the landlord, who should have gotten his registration completed through the county.
Ike Sriskandara…:So, then what happens?
Noor Hindi:There’s some quick back and forth. It’s a really confusing moment. Gary says he’s never received any communication about the CARES Act, and the magistrate accepts his answer.
Speaker 9:It’ll be the judgment of the court that based on the testimony that has been provided here today, a writ of restitution will be issued in favor of the plaintiff for failure to pay rent.
Noor Hindi:In less than 10 minutes, Amber loses her home. The moratorium failed to protect her.
Ike Sriskandara…:Did you get to talk to Gary Thomas?
Noor Hindi:I did. I called Gary three times. And he told me he’d had enough problems with the city of Akron and he wasn’t interested in talking to us.
Ike Sriskandara…:What about the magistrates? Did you ask why they were evicting people who should have been covered by the moratorium?
Noor Hindi:Yes. And one of them, Magistrate Jennifer Towell, basically told me that the CDC moratorium was difficult to understand. It was left to local jurisdictions to interpret, and it really didn’t leave a lot of clarity on how to enforce it.
Magistrate Jenn…:They’re not written the best way possible as far as for the people who actually have to apply them. So first, we have to interpret what our court, what our interpretation is, and how we are going to move forward with that. And sometimes, there’s attorneys or litigants who maybe don’t agree with the court’s interpretation of it, which is within their rights.
Ike Sriskandara…:So if I understand the problem correctly, the CDC wanted to do this lofty, humane and safe public health thing, which is protect tenants from eviction to stop the spread of COVID. When they actually went to write the moratorium, they wrote it in such a way that in Akron at least, magistrates had a lot of room to interpret what they meant, and that in turn left some people out?
Noor Hindi:Right. And it just didn’t provide a lot of structure. And this really left court systems out in terms of figuring out how they were going to do this. And it left tenants out in figuring out how they could access the moratorium and prevent their eviction.
Noor Hindi:And things were really messy for a really long time and it seemed like just as we were getting into the flow of using this moratorium in a way that was uniform, landlord groups started to sue to stop the moratorium.
Ike Sriskandara…:The landlords tried to sue the CDC over this moratorium?
Noor Hindi:Yes. And actually last March, a federal judge in Cleveland ruled that the CDC went beyond what the Public Health Service Act allows it to do. He didn’t go as far as to stop it but this is something that landlords have argued all along. They say they’re hurting too because the aid they were supposed to receive was way too slow to come in. And it may be brought funding in for three months, but there was no guarantee or consistency on how they were going to receive the next three months.
Ike Sriskandara…:So this CDC plan was really well-intentioned, but when it came down to it, it was confusing to magistrates, confusing to landlords, confusing to tenants, and also didn’t offer Amber the protection she thought she had. What’s it been like for her since?
Noor Hindi:Well, it’s been about three months since she’s been evicted. But she’s done a pretty good job of landing on her feet. She found a new place to live. She kept on with her GED and graduated. And she continued with courses at Stark State College.
Ike Sriskandara…:It sounds like it worked out for Amber, kind of surprising. I wasn’t totally expecting a happy ending.
Noor Hindi:So, yeah, she does pretty well for herself. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. I would attend these hearings and then I would go visit people after their hearings that day and talk to them. Some were rushing to find a different place to live. Others were planning on splitting up their families and living at different friends and families’ homes. And I even remember one man telling me that he may end up living in his car.
Noor Hindi:There were some more hopeful cases like Amber’s but for the most part, eviction is really destabilizing for families and households. And almost everyone I spoke to were scrambling to find a new place to live.
Ike Sriskandara…:Thanks so much for your reporting, Noor.
Noor Hindi:Thanks for having me, Ike.
Ike Sriskandara…:That was Noor Hindi, who reported on this story for The Devil Strip and the Home in Akron reporting collaboration. The story was produced by Amy Mostafa.
Ike Sriskandara…:Our next story takes us to Sacramento, California, where CapRadio’s Sarah Mizes-Tan investigates another federal program that was supposed to help people during the pandemic.
Paulina Gonzale…:The way that discrimination happens or racism happens is never by accident. It’s either by design or it’s baked into the system for generations.
Ike Sriskandara…:You’re listening to Reveal.
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Ike Sriskandara…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah in for Al Letson. We just heard about how the CDC’s eviction moratorium didn’t halt all evictions during the pandemic. And it wasn’t the only federal plan that fell short of helping the people it was supposed to.
Ike Sriskandara…:Every Sunday, about 150 people would crowd into Vida Church, a Latino-led congregation in North Sacramento, California. They heard songs and sermons in Spanish and English led by Pastor Alex Vaiz.
Pastor Alex Vai…:That means the presence of God need to begin to overflow.
Ike Sriskandara…:But for Vida Church, those days are over. Like many places of worship, it didn’t survive the pandemic. The federal government was supposed to offer a safety net through the Paycheck Protection Program which provided hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses.
Ike Sriskandara…:Earlier this year, Reveal found that in major cities across the country, the rate of lending was higher in majority white neighborhoods than in neighborhoods of color. We shared our data with local reporters around the country, and Sarah Mizes-Tan of CapRadio in Sacramento found something else that in her area, the disparity was even more pronounced for places of worship. Here’s Sarah.
Pastor Alex Vai…:Hi.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Hi.
Pastor Alex Vai…:How are you?
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Good. How are you?
Pastor Alex Vai…:Good, good.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:It’s a sunny Saturday in June when I meet with Pastor Alex at this warehouse style building where his church used to be.
Pastor Alex Vai…:It’s just surreal because the last time I’ve been here was when we were taking everything out.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Vida Church didn’t only have services. It also ran a food bank and held an annual harvest festival for the community. Now, it’s much quieter than it used to be. Pastor Alex just came back here to meet me.
Pastor Alex Vai…:Some of the dreams that we had here, we really wanted to connect with the community, serve the community’s needs. A big part, if not the gist of our faith, is to serve other people, to love people and serve people, meet people where they’re at, show them the love of God in tangible ways, not just come to my church.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:This working class neighborhood is called Old North Sacramento. Some of the historic buildings from the 1900s are currently being revitalized. But it’s also industrial with a number of vacant lots and abandoned buildings mixed in with a few houses. Latinos are the largest ethnic group.
Pastor Alex Vai…:It’s been very underserved. It’s been a forgotten community.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:For Pastor Alex, this place represented a special calling, an opportunity for his church to make an impact. But when the pandemic hit, Pastor Alex had to stop holding services in person. No more community events either.
Pastor Alex Vai…:So, our budget just fell all the way down 60%. And then it continued to go further.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:You tried moving services online, but people didn’t show. Many parishioners lost their jobs. The congregation stopped giving. The church lost its lease.
Pastor Alex Vai…:It was devastating. It was very difficult because that’s the biggest part of ministry. It’s connecting with their people. They know you’re there. They can go to you.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:For many new immigrants, Vida Church was a home away from home, a place for them to get on their feet. So, parishioners share Pastor Alex’s sense of loss. Claudia Ramos-Chile attended the church for 13 years until it closed.
Claudia Ramos-C…:The same feeling that I had leaving my family and my friends 30 years ago in El Salvador and feeling homesick about it, that’s the way it felt. It felt like I left my family. It’s painful not to gather, not to have that community with them.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:But Vida Church didn’t have to close. The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to help small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, and that includes churches and other places of worship. The idea was to stabilize communities and keep people employed even when they were ordered to stay home.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:But when we looked at the Sacramento area, we found a huge disparity. $20 million of government aid went to places of worship in majority white neighborhoods. That’s three times as much as neighborhoods that are majority people of color. And that’s despite the fact that Sacramento is pretty evenly split in terms of racial diversity. The Latino-led Vida Church in Old North Sacramento, they didn’t even apply.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Gabby Trejo runs Sacramento Area Congregations Together, a nonprofit interfaith organization.
Gabby Trejo:The Latino faith leaders that lead much smaller congregations and are having to be the admin, the pastor, the counselor, the everything, it might have been more difficult for them to actually access these loans and be thinking about those loans as they were also serving families and individuals.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:She says a lot of Latino-led congregations didn’t have anyone with the financial background to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. Even though the application was fairly short, to Pastor Alex and other leaders of black and Latino and Asian congregations, they were worried it would be a complicated government program.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:African Americans and Latinos were the two racial groups most likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic. And so these congregations struggled as donations dwindled and parishioners lost their jobs.
Gabby Trejo:It is frustrating because when we look at the numbers of who got the loans, and we look at how Latino faith leaders were left out and African American faith leaders were left out.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:She says the way the PPP money was handed out is just one more example of how unevenly resources have been distributed in the community. Earlier this year, Reveal uncovered many factors that fueled these disparities for small businesses. Many business owners in Latino, Asian, and African American communities lacked the computers and scanners they needed to send financial documents quickly to banks.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Some business owners worried about taking out a loan in the middle of an economic crisis. And there was confusion about whether the smallest businesses, those without employees, qualified for PPP. The same confusion extended to churches.
Gabby Trejo:It is disappointing and it is heartbreaking.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:And the harm extends far beyond the closure of a place of worship. Gabby says religious institutions especially in historically underserved neighborhoods like Old North Sacramento, play a crucial role in keeping communities together.
Gabby Trejo:When we think about what the congregations bring to our community, our faith leaders, they’re in the trenches listening to these stories day in and day out, really providing that care for people, the spiritual care.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:While churches in Latino neighborhoods were shutting their doors, some places of worship in the city’s majority white neighborhoods were expanding. Here in Rosemont, a middle class suburb. There are tree-lined streets with detached single family homes and sprawling green lawns. At one of the churches here, Capital Christian Center, there’s a big fountain right at the entrance. On Father’s Day, the music was literally booming, a full brass band played during the morning service and docents welcomed people in.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Capital Christian Center received one of the largest loans to any religious institution in Sacramento, $1.7 million. Laine Alves is one of the pastors here. She says the loan was a huge help to the church. It allowed them to expand even during the pandemic.
Pastor Laine Al…:We hired a new worship leader during COVID. He just started in February of this year actually. The church is here to support and always, we say we’re made up physically, spiritually, socially, and academically.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:They were even able to open their private K-12 school in person.
Pastor Laine Al…:That was a huge win for us.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Capital Christian is lucky, she says. They used their loan money to grow, but also to continue their community service work like a monthly food drive. Their church had a whole financial team that managed its application for the Paycheck Protection Program. They got their money quickly in the first round of federal funding early in the pandemic. And then what felt like another miracle for them, the loan was completely forgiven, all $1.7 million. That’s not unusual. A lot of businesses and organizations that got money from PPP didn’t have to pay it back.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:I reached out to the Small Business Administration to ask them why more wasn’t done to help faith communities of color. No one would talk to me. But I eventually received a statement, which said the federal government is deeply committed to getting money to struggling small businesses. So then, I reached out to the banks. They handed out the government’s money.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Beth Mills is a spokesperson for the California Bankers Association.
Beth Mills:I think if you look actually, the numbers of the support that our members give to organizations in a lot of these communities, there’s people who work in the branches that are in these communities. They live in the communities. They are very committed to supporting these communities. So I don’t think that’s representative all of the commitment that our banks have to these communities.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:I pressed her. If race isn’t a factor, how could it be that churches in Sacramento’s white neighborhoods got three times as much money as those where people of color makeup the majority?
Sarah Mizes-Tan:I do wonder like, is this just the definition of systemic racism?
Beth Mills:I think that, unfortunately, maybe the applications didn’t come in from certain ethnicities. And so there might have been an ethnicity that had more applications in the door than others did. And I don’t think that all speaks to characterizing a bank’s intentions or with respect to, especially racism.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:If the banks say they’re serving these communities, why was there such a huge disparity in the loans they received?
Paulina Gonzale…:My name is Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, and I’m the executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:That’s an advocacy organization that provides banking support to communities of color. She says it’s no coincidence that congregations in white neighborhoods got a lot more money from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Paulina Gonzale…:This really is about the long history of relationships, or a lack of relationships, that financial institutions have had with black, indigenous, and people of color.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:She says that legacy of discrimination put a responsibility on banks today.
Paulina Gonzale…:The government or banks will say that these things just happen accidentally, that they’re not in any way, the way that they design programs whether at the government level or at the financial institution level, and it’s a way of washing their hands of responsibility. The way that discrimination happens or racism happens is never by accident. It’s either by design or it’s baked into the system for generations.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:You can see the impact of those disparities here in North Sacramento where Vida Church used to be. For Pastor Alex, standing in front of his shuttered church, the memories flood back.
Pastor Alex Vai…:We’d use all of that space for those large Halloween events. We’d fill it up with jump houses. It was really neat because people would come out from all the community and be able to hang out with us. A lot of things, a lot of memories.
Sarah Mizes-Tan:Vida Church is still broke, but Pastor Alex is trying to get resources together so they can begin to hold services, first in people’s homes, and then hopefully at a more permanent location.
Ike Sriskandara…:Sarah Mizes-Tan is the race and equity reporter for CapRadio in Sacramento. Her story was edited by Aaron Glantz and was part of a collaboration with CapRadio and NPR’s California Newsroom. The show was also edited by Brett Myers and Cynthia Rodriguez. Our production manager, Amy Mostafa, helped produce the show and I was the lead producer of this week.
Ike Sriskandara…:Reveal’s Mohamed Al Elew provided data analysis on our Akron eviction story. Grace Oldham helped out with additional research and Nina Martin was the digital editor. Thanks to James Miller at the duPont Manual Magnet High School in Louisville. Victoria Baranetsky is our general counsel. Score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda. They had help this week from Steven Rascón and Clare Mullen. Our digital producer is Sarah Mirk. Our interim CEO is Annie Chabel. Sumi Aggarwal is our interim editor in chief, and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado Lightning.
Ike Sriskandara…:Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Ike Sriskandarajah. And as always, Al would like you to remember, there is always more to the story.
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Speaker 21:From PRX.

Noor Hindi (she/her) is a Palestinian American poet and reporter. She lives in Akron, Ohio, and is the equity and inclusion reporter for The Devil Strip magazine, covering race, immigration and LGBTQ+ issues. She earned her master of fine arts degree in creative writing this year. She will be reporting on the housing conditions among immigrants and refugees in Akron.

Mohamed Al Elew

Mohamed Al Elew (he/him) is a data reporter for Reveal. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of California San Diego, where he was a research scholar at the Data Science Institute and served as editor-in-chief of The Triton, the school’s independent student newsroom. As an intern at CalMatters, he worked on an award-winning investigation into instruction lost at California public schools due to natural disasters and infrastructure failures. He is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Ike Sriskandarajah

Ike Sriskandarajah is a senior reporter, producer, and fill-in host for Reveal. He has worked on projects that have won an Emmy, two medals from Investigative Reporters and Editors, and awards from Third Coast, the Education Writers Association, and the New York Associated Press Association. He was a narrative audio producer at The New York Times, making investigative episodes for "The Daily." Sriskandarajah is from Wisconsin and reports from New York City.

Amy Mostafa is the production manager for Reveal. She is pursuing a master's degree in journalism with a focus on audio and data at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is a Dean’s Merit Fellow and an Islamic Scholarship Fund scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on KALW and KALX.  Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office. 

Aaron Glantz was a senior reporter at Reveal. He is the author of "Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream." Glantz produces journalism with impact. His work has sparked more than a dozen congressional hearings, numerous laws and criminal probes by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Pentagon and Federal Trade Commission. A two-time Peabody Award winner, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, multiple Emmy Award nominee and former John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, Glantz has had his work has appear in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and PBS NewsHour. His previous books include "The War Comes Home" and "How America Lost Iraq."

Brett Myers is a senior radio editor for Reveal. His work has received more than 20 national honors, including a George Foster Peabody Award, four nationalEdward R. Murrow Awards and multipleThird Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Competition awards. Before joining Reveal, he was a senior producer at Youth Radio, where he collaborated with teenage reporters to file stories for "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Marketplace." 

Prior to becoming an audio producer, Myers trained as a documentary photographer and was named one of the 25 best American photographers under the age of 25. He loves bikes, California and his family. Before that, he was an independent radio producer and worked with StoryCorps, Sound Portraits and The Kitchen Sisters. Myers is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Cynthia Rodriguez

Cynthia Rodriguez is a senior radio editor for Reveal. She is an award-winning journalist who came to Reveal from New York Public Radio, where she spent nearly two decades covering everything from the city’s dramatic rise in family homelessness to police’s fatal shootings of people with mental illness.

In 2019, Rodriguez was part of Caught, a podcast that documents how the problem of mass incarceration starts with the juvenile justice system. Caught received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for outstanding journalism in the public interest. Her other award-winning stories include investigations into the deaths of construction workers during New York City's building boom and the “three-quarter house” industry – a network of independent, privately run buildings that pack vulnerable people into unsanitary, overcrowded buildings in exchange for their welfare funds.

In 2013, Rodriguez was one of 13 journalists to be selected as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where her study project was on the intersection of poverty and mental health. She is based in New York City but is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and considers both places home.

Nina Martin (she/her) is the features editor for Reveal. She develops high-impact investigative reporting projects for Reveal’s digital and audio platforms and television and print partners. Previously, she was a reporter at ProPublica, covering sex and gender issues, and worked as an editor and/or reporter at San Francisco magazine, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, Health magazine and BabyCenter magazine. Her Lost Mothers project for ProPublica and NPR examining maternal mortality in the U.S. led to sweeping change to maternal health policy at the state and federal levels and won numerous awards. Martin is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Sarah Mirk (she/her) is a digital engagement producer for Reveal. Since 2017, she has worked as an editor at The Nib, an online daily comics publication focused on political cartoons, graphic journalism, essays and memoirs about current affairs. She works with artists to create nonfiction comics on a variety of complex topics, from personal narratives about queer identities to examinations of overlooked history. Before that, Mirk was the online editor of national feminist media outlet Bitch, a podcast host and a local news reporter. She is also the author of several books, including “Year of Zines,” a collection of 100 handmade zines, and “Guantanamo Voices,” a collection of illustrated oral histories of the world’s most infamous prison. Mirk is based in Portland, Oregon.

Grace Oldham (she/her) is a 2021-22 Roy W. Howard Fellow for Reveal. She earned both her master’s and bachelor's degrees from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. During her time at ASU, she contributed to a documentary on youth suicide in Arizona, reported on local humanitarian aid efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border and worked on a team of reporters to produce an award-winning story on a botched sex-trafficking investigation by federal homeland security agents. She has also held multiple internships at The Arizona Republic, where she reported on state politics and higher education.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is the sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. A composer and multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the scoring, recording, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He co-founded a film scoring boutique called Manhattan Composers Collective and worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio geared toward media and ad spots. Arruda worked with clients such as Marvel and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck + Company, Buck and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles such as Krychek, Dark Inc., the New York Arabic Orchestra and Art&Sax. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker.” Arruda has scored extensively for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which have premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. Arruda is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Claire Mullen worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until September 2017. is an associate sound designer and audio engineer for Reveal. Before joining Reveal, she was an assistant producer at Radio Ambulante and worked with KALW, KQED, the Association of Independents in Radio and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She studied humanities and media studies at Scripps College.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.