March 08, 2019
Best of the States
Only on AP: Death of ‘hood CNN’ video pioneer exposes gangland reporting risks
There’s always a better story behind a statistic.
Chicago’s homicide rate is one of the worst in the United States. By digging into one drive-by shooting, Chicago-based legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm and Houston-based video journalist John Mone found out how one victim’s life had inspired a generation of gang territory storytellers.
Telling it took a lot of sourcework.
Tarm had already been working on a story about social media and gangs, and he’d watched a few of Zack Stoner’s reports on Chicago street gangs and rappers on his ZackTV1 YouTube channel. When reports surfaced that Stoner was gunned down, Tarm began to look deeper, stumbling across a wider story – about a new brand of gutsy gangland reporters in Chicago and elsewhere who have avid followers on YouTube.
Getting access to the storytellers was tough, but eventually the name of Texas-based reporter Shawn Cotton emerged. Cotton was eager to discuss Stoner, his impact on the genre and the effect his killing had on him and others. Mone rode along with Cotton to the Meadow Brook subdivision in Fort Worth, dubbed “Murder Brook” by some of the kids on the street where Cotton filmed.
The multi-platform work played prominently with impressive reader engagement.
For relentless sourcework to show how a generation of storytellers is impacting its communities, Tarm and Mone win this week’s Best of the States.