“Somebody,” the seven-part podcast series produced by the Invisible Institute, The Intercept, and Topic Studios, was named a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting.
This series documents Chicago mother Shapearl Wells’s quest to find out what happened to her son, Courtney Copeland, a 22-year-old man who wound up with a bullet in his back outside a Chicago police station in 2016 and died.
After hearing about the recognition, Wells said: “All of this was for Courtney. I share this recognition not just with the team, but with him. I am honored for this opportunity and platform to tell our story, and I hope it brings more people to a greater understanding of the disregard Black people experience in every dimension of our lives.”
Disrupting the genre of investigative journalism podcasts, “Somebody” is narrated by Wells, who guides listeners to explore questions of police accountability and public trust. Wells is the vice president of the Courtney Copeland Memorial Foundation, which works to reduce violence, strengthen education, and build rapport between the community and police.
In the series, Wells is joined by Chicago journalist Alison Flowers, who leads investigations at the Invisible Institute on the South Side of Chicago, and Bill Healy, an independent radio producer. Over three years, the “Somebody” team sought answers in Copeland’s death, uncovering new evidence and calling the police to account along the way for their actions. The project’s story editor is Sarah Geis, and its supervising producer is Intercept Deputy Editor Roger Hodge, who has spearheaded The Intercept’s longtime collaboration with the Invisible Institute and its executive director, Jamie Kalven. (See here for the podcast’s complete credits.)
“This recognition from the Pulitzer Board is meaningful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it will bring attention to the story of what happened to Courtney Copeland. The more people hear about Shapearl Wells’s quest for justice for her son, the more they will see how the inhumanity of police inflicts a profound toll on Black families in our country,” said Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed.
“‘Somebody’ reflects the creative outcome of intensive collaboration among The Intercept and the Invisible Institute — a national treasure for investigative journalism — and Topic Studios, our brilliant colleagues at First Look Media,” Reed said.
Flowers, of the Invisible Institute, said: “We are grateful that the Pulitzer Prize Board has recognized this vital form of journalism. But above all, we are grateful to Shapearl for her trust. This podcast is not just about what happened to her son. It’s about the powerful moral perspective of motherhood as the basis for extraordinary resistance. This is why we need more voices like Shapearl’s in journalism and more journalistic organizations that are willing to put their craft at the service of someone else’s experience.”
To bring the project to fruition, The Intercept and the Invisible Institute partnered with Topic Studios, the entertainment studio from First Look Media, which has produced a number of acclaimed and innovative podcasts, including “Politically Re-Active” with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu, “Anthem” from John Cameron Mitchell, and “Missing Richard Simmons” and “Headlong: Running from COPS,” both hosted by Dan Taberski.
Maria Zuckerman, head of Topic Studios, said: “We are honored to have helped bring this singular podcast to the world and, now, for this recognition from the Pulitzer Prize Board. At the heart of this podcast is the voice of Shapearl Wells, who continues to take our breath away with her bravery and determination. We thank Shapearl for bringing us all on this narrative journey with her. Topic Studios is also proud to be associated with the spectacular investigative journalism of the Invisible Institute and our fellow First Look Media organization, The Intercept, in co-producing ‘Somebody.’”
The Pulitzer recognition follows a series of other accolades for “Somebody,” including a National Magazine Award (Podcasting Category) and awards from Scripps Howard (Excellence in Radio/Podcast Coverage), the Independent Documentary Association, or IDA (Best Audio Documentary), Adweek (Podcast Host of the Year), Third Coast International (Best Serialized Story), and Headliner (Best Criminal Justice/Crime podcast).
To learn more about the making of “Somebody,” visit somebodypodcast.com. “Somebody” is a co-production of the Invisible Institute, The Intercept, Topic Studios, and iHeartRadio, in association with Tenderfoot TV.