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Pulitzer Spotlight: Policing in the Era of Big Data

In the age of algorithms and informatics, law enforcement agencies across the country have turned to data-driven programs to help fight crime. But what happens when such programs infringe on civil rights, amplify racial biases or become abusive? And how can journalists hold those agencies accountable while detailing the steep human costs for those targeted? In this webinar, 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi will explain how they unearthed a secretive policing operation in Florida that used data to harass residents and profile schoolchildren. And they will discuss strategies that reporters can use to go beyond press releases and sniff out similar programs in their own communities. They’ll also share practical reporting tips for fact-checking police claims, finding the right people to bring the story to life, and some broader lessons learned from landing difficult stories in the face of sustained opposition.

WHEN: July 21, 2021, from 8-9 a.m. PT / 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET

REGISTER: [Now closed / watch video above]


Kathleen McGrory is the deputy editor for investigations at the Tampa Bay Times. She and her colleague Neil Bedi won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for their reporting on a local policing program used to monitor and harass residents. The series was also a finalist for the 2021 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting and the Scripps Howard Award for Local/Regional Investigative Reporting. Their prior series, on problems at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting and won the 2019 George Polk award for local reporting and an IRE award. As a 2016 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow, she reported “In Harm’s Way,” revealing for the first time that between 2010 and 2015 nearly 3,200 kids in Florida were killed or injured by firearms. She started her career at the Miami Herald, where she covered breaking news, education and government. She is a graduate of Hamilton College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Neil Bedi is a reporter at ProPublica in Washington, D.C., where he covers federal government agencies. He was previously an investigative reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. His 2020 National Fellowship project with 2016 National Fellow Kathleen McGrory focused on a local predictive policing program in Pasco County, Florida that harassed residents and profiled schoolchildren. It was recently awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, and led to a federal investigation and several civil suits. His 2018 investigation with McGrory into the alarming death rate at the cardiac surgery unit of a Florida children’s hospital won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. In addition, he has twice been named a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. He graduated from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.

This webinar is free and made possible by The California Endowment.

Panelists' slides: Click here.


Suggested reading

Targeted,” by Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi, Tampa Bay Times

Heat List — Chicago PD’s automated policing,” by Matt Stroud, The Verge

LAPD will end controversial program that aimed to predict where crimes would occur,” by Leila Miller, Los Angeles Times

For years Chicago police rated the risk of tens of thousands being caught up in violence. That controversial effort has quietly been ended.” By Jeremy Gorner and Annie Sweeney, The Chicago Tribune

How the LAPD and Palantir use data to justify racist policing,” by Mara Hvistendahl, The Intercept


The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors to serve as thought leaders in one of the most innovative and rewarding arenas in journalism today – “engaged reporting” that puts the community at the center of the reporting process. Learn more about the positions and apply to join our team.


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