It’s a subject that has been largely ignored by the public and mainstream press in the U.S.: the plight of thousands of missing and murdered Native American women across the country.
Albuquerque reporter Mary Hudetz and national enterprise journalists Sharon Cohen and David Goldman teamed up to deliver an impressive all-formats package that illuminated these tragedies, getting play as far away as New Zealand and earning praise from the industry for their efforts.
Cohen spent weeks finding victims’ relatives who would talk and agree to be photographed and go on camera. Hudetz, a member of the Crow Tribe and past president of the Native American Journalists Association, sifted through databases and reports with missing person cases and numbers to try to shed light on the volume of cases that the government knows about and has compiled. Cohen and Goldman traveled to the Blackfeet Reservation, where persistence and patience won them the access needed to intimately show and tell this story. At one point, Goldman was invited along on a BBQ and to the room where the main character in the package was staying when she disappeared. Data journalist Angel Kastanis was brought in to help with the numbers, and West region enterprise editor Katie Oyan was instrumental in guiding the project along.
Hudetz sifted through databases and missing person reports to shed light on the number of known cases. Persistence and patience won the access Cohen and Goldman needed to intimately tell this story.
The package brought readers into the heart of the Blackfeet Reservation, giving them a sense of place through images that captured poverty, despair and scenes of a thriving community set against an expansive landscape. Goldman produced a mini-documentary set to an original music score that capture the grief of these families. It closed with an array of missing and murdered posters featuring Native women and girls, hauntingly showing just how widespread this problem has become.
The package was a tremendous hit in play; we heard from customers in New Zealand who ran it. But our U.S. customers in states with reservations were especially thrilled, and featured it widely on front pages. As soon as the package was advised on the wire, we received two notes from editors at The Missoulian in Montana – one from Editor Kathy Best and the other from City Editor Gwen Florio – thanking us for taking this subject on. As Gwen wrote: “So glad y’all did it. Wish we had, but no matter what, glad it’s going to be out there in the depth it deserves.” And from Kathy: “I’m glad you made the commitment and thrilled we will get to run these pieces. Thank you for this important journalism.”
The story was by far the winner on the AP app on a crazy busy news day, with not only the Anonymous op-ed story breaking but the Kavanaugh hearings.
"A testament to the power of deep reporting and powerful images to break through the chaos."
Brian Carovillano, managing editor
As Managing Editor Brian Carovillano said: “Let’s ... pause for a moment to appreciate the fact that this excellent enterprise package rose to the top of the heap on one of the busiest and most significant news days in recent memory. A testament to the power of deep reporting and powerful images to break through the chaos.”
For their efforts, Hudetz, Goldman and Cohen win this week’s Best of the States award.