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Revelations about domestic violence secrecy and frontline COVID workers' pay struggles unfold in WBUR's National Headliner-winning coverage

Two wins across the National Headliner Awards' radio categories have expanded WBUR's roster of recognition this year.

Our first place medallion for "Secrecy and Violence," reported by Ally Jarmanning and edited by Todd Wallack, tops the news series subcategory. The two-part investigation unpacks a sweeping Massachusetts law that shields domestic and sexual violence records from the public. Instead of safeguarding survivors, sources told WBUR, the 1974 law can inadvertently protect perpetrators and police officers accused of misconduct. David Adams, co-founder of a Malden-based program that seeks to rehabilitate domestic abusers, spoke with Jarmanning about the law's unintended impact: "Domestic violence really thrives on secrecy and silence."

The comprehensive series, featured on WBUR's Morning Edition, on NPR and in The Boston Globe, is the result of nearly a year and a half of reporting and 350 public records requests by Jarmanning, senior reporter, and Wallack, then deputy managing editor and now investigations correspondent. They'd previously come across their own hurdles accessing information shrouded by the law.

"[We] found it very frustrating. So we decided to ask a really simple question," reflects Jarmanning. "Was this really strict, unique-to-Massachusetts law doing what it was supposed to do: encourage more victims to come forward?"

From there, Jarmanning and Wallack invested in long-term relationships with their sources – many of whom grappled with feelings of anger, fear and shame while deciding if they'd go on the record.

"It was a real lesson to me in giving sources time to figure out their own feelings about participating in a project like this, and the benefits that can come from building a relationship over time," says Jarmanning.

Following her reporting, elected officials vowed to review the state's secrecy laws. National Headliner Awards judges also acknowledged the 2022 investigation as a catalyst for scrutiny and change.

"What better mark of success for this reporting than a call to action for Massachusetts lawmakers to file a bill to create a commission to probe problems [it] uncovered," the judges said.

Our second honor this year goes to "Thousands of workers got COVID on the job – then had to fight for workers’ comp," an investigation by Beth Healy and Saurabh Datar which placed second in the health, science and pandemic subcategory. Healy, former member of the investigations team and now deputy managing editor, and Datar detail one occupational therapist's months-long struggle to reach a settlement after she contracted the virus while caring for patients at a nursing home.

The award-winning story started with data, explains Healy.

"We wanted to find out how many people had gotten sick [with COVID-19] at work," she says. "We found that in the first two years of the pandemic, more than 12,700 claims were submitted for Massachusetts workers."

Soon after, Healy adds, the poignant experience of Susan Crowell – the occupational therapist at the center of the story – emerged in the foreground.

"She's a nurse who contracted Long Covid while caring for others. [Then she] had to fight very hard – even hiring a lawyer – to pursue pay, all while struggling with a serious illness that changed her life," Healy says.

Last year, Healy was also recognized for her contribution to WBUR's "Seize and Keep" series by National Headliner Awards judges.

The annual program, founded in 1934 by the Press Club of Atlantic City, recognizes the best journalism in the United States by magazines, newspapers, news syndicates, radio and television stations and networks across categories. Among fellow winning organizations this year are ABC News, Bloomberg, CNN, NPR, The Associated Press and The Washington Post.

Brilee Weaver Marketing Specialist
As WBUR’s marketing specialist, Brilee supports newsroom collaborators, target audiences, and brand pillars throughout production processes.



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