A podcast that explored the 27-year-long investigation into the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling has won a 2016 George Foster Peabody award.
"In the Dark," produced by APM Reports, an investigative unit of American Public Media, became available last year just as news broke of a plea deal that allowed Jacob's killer to reveal what had happened.
In announcing the honors, the Peabody Awards called the nine-part series "as deftly incisive in telling the human tale as it is full and unrelenting in its attention to broader policy implications."
Host and lead reporter Madeleine Baran, who also won a Peabody for exposing the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse at the Twin Cities archdiocese, said they didn't set out to solve the crime, but to look at the mistakes law enforcement had made in the case.
That allowed the series to proceed even after Danny Heinrich admitted to the killing.
Producer Samara Freemark said knowing who did it and how actually helped. "We were able to determine which of the mistakes we knew about actually mattered to the case."
Freemark added it was a challenge to take tens of thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of hours of audio to make an understandable and compelling listening experience.
"And this was a story we had to be sensitive about. These were real people who were going through real trauma. And we had to tell this in a way that was not sensationalistic," Freemark said.
The 11 winners of Peabody awards include NPR's reporting on the culture at Wells Fargo that led to the creation of 2 million fake consumer bank accounts. Reporter Chris Arnold talked with former employees who described the high pressure to raise sales, who also said the wrongdoing was widespread.
Producers of "In the Dark" are working on season two. Baran and Freemark say, like the first season, it will be an investigative series that be about something larger than the story at the center.
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