Harper High School (WBEZ Chicago 91.5)
At Harper High School in Chicago, twenty-nine current or recent students were shot in the span of a single year. Learning of this staggering statistic, This American Life embedded three reporters at the school for five months. Their in-depth reporting, with surprising access to staff and students, resulted in two radio episodes. The first focused on how the faculty and staff do their jobs in this setting, the second on how such a high incidence of gun violence affects the lives of the students who are regularly forced to grieve the loss of their peers, often tempted to seek revenge. Viewers get a sense of what life is like in West Englewood, where young males do not even get to choose to be in gangs, but find themselves members simply by virtue of where they live. The stories featured in these episodes had a strong impact on listeners, who donated more than $250,000 to Harper High School. First Lady Michelle Obama was also moved to visit Harper High to meet with students, and in June, she and President Obama hosted a group of students and staff at the White House. For masterfully localizing a national crisis in a vivid, unblinking, poignant, and sometimes gut-wrenching manner, Harper High School wins This American Life its fifth Peabody Award.
Executive Producer: Ira Glass. Producer: Julie Snyder. Reporters: Ben Calhoun, Alex Kotlowitz, Linda Lutton. Co-Producer: Robyn Semien.