NPR has selected WFIU News to participate in the 2021 NPR Story Lab Editorial Training Workshop, designed to support producers from all backgrounds in developing their show concept into a pilot. Participants will gather virtually for six months starting April 30.
Earlier this year, NPR invited its staff, member stations, and independent producers to pitch ideas for audio projects that will break traditional formats and reach new audiences. NPR received more than 200 applications from all over the U.S. and beyond. WFIU News was one of the five teams chosen by NPR.
The WFIU News team will work with NPR Story Lab to develop Rush to Kill, a podcast about federal executions during the Trump administration. In July 2020, after almost two decades without a federal execution in the United States, the Trump administration put to death three times as many federal inmates as in the previous six decades combined. The WFIU News team covered each execution in person at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. Their year-long investigation will reveal how the Trump administration’s rush to carry out these death sentences before leaving office upended a century of legal precedent, contributed to the outbreak of a deadly virus, and damaged the lives of far more Americans than the 13 it set out to execute.
The podcast will be led by WFIU News team members George Hale, Cathy Knapp, and Sara Wittmeyer.
Hale will serve as the host and lead reporter for the podcast. He joined WFIU last January to make long-term projects like Rush to Kill. His previous experience includes working at KETR public radio on Buried, a podcast about Carey Mae Parker, a Texas woman missing since 1991.
Cathy Knapp will be the researcher on Rush to Kill. She came to WFIU after working for many years at the Indianapolis Star. Her expertise made it possible to interview people from every side of this federal execution issue, including many speaking to media for the first time. She located family members of inmates and victims across the United States and in other countries, and helped produce WFIU/WTIU News’s first major execution-related documentary, A Mother’s Justice: The Trials of Lisa Montgomery.
Sara Wittmeyer, WFIU News Bureau Chief, will be the editor for the podcast. She will approve daily reporting and review pitches and scripts as the project moves forward.