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Nashville police department's 'blue wall' begins to crumble in report by Schorr Prize winner Samantha Max

BOSTON, MA (May 4, 2022) — "'Grin and bear it, or turn a cheek? Nothing about that felt like justice to me.'" A systemic pattern of misconduct, silence, and retaliation kept hidden by a Nashville police department unravels in "Behind the Blue Wall: Officers describe a 'toxic' culture within Metro Police." The WPLN News and APM Reports investigation, which centers on allegations against a 26-year veteran of the force, has earned criminal justice reporter Samantha Max WBUR's 2021 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.

Max, the host of WPLN's "Deadly Force" and a former health and inequity corps member with Report for America, is among nearly 60 up-and-coming public radio journalists considered this year for the Prize.

In "Behind the Blue Wall," Max promises a different story on policing, one that calls into question officers' treatment of their own. The Prize finalist judges — NPR's Ailsa Chang, who won the 2010 Schorr Prize, and Kimberly Atkins Stohr, senior opinion writer at the Boston Globe — say that Max delivers. She tells the story of Monica Blake-Beasley, a former officer and survivor of an alleged sexual assault, who shares her experience and distrust in the system.

"'If you wonder why morale is so low, it's because officers are going to work not being able to trust the very people who are there to uphold justice,'" says Blake-Beasley. "'And if you can't trust the police, who do you go to?'"

The Prize is named for late NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, who believed in supporting talented, young journalists. The annual $5,000 award — sponsored by WBUR and funded since its inception in 2007 by Jim and Nancy Bildner — salutes a new generation of public radio reporters under 35.

"Supporting these incredible journalists has never been more important," says Jim Bildner. "Max's work is another example of why it matters."

Max, soon to join WNYC, will be presented with the Prize at WBUR's three-night gala, "Bright Nights," which runs from May 24 to 26.

Past Schorr Prize winners include Mountain West News Bureau Reporter Nate Hegyi (2020); former Montana Public Radio Host, Producer and Reporter Nora Saks (2019); Washington Post Reporter and former ProPublica Reporter Hannah Dreier (2018); Capitol Broadcasting Company Podcast Network Executive Producer and former WLRN Reporter Wilson Sayre (2017); Host and Reporter of NPR’s Planet Money and former WNYC Reporter Sarah Gonzalez (2016); WWNO Regional News Director and former WAMU Reporter Patrick Madden (2015); KQED Reporter and former WFPL Reporter Devin Katayama (2014); WBEZ Producer Becky Vevea (2013); CPR Reporter and former KUNC reporter Grace Hood (2012); former NPR host David Greene (2011); NPR’s All Things Considered Host and former NPR Reporter Ailsa Chang (2010); former NPR Planet Money Reporter Chana Joffe-Walt (2009); How I Built This host and former NPR Defense Correspondent Guy Raz (2008); and NPR Investigative Correspondent Laura Sullivan (2007).

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