Maria Zamudio (left) and Kristian Hernandez
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Kristian Hernández and María Inés Zamudio are joining the Center for Public Integrity as investigative reporters focused on inequality in the United States.

For Hernández, who has worked as a state policy reporter based in Texas for Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline project the past year and as an investigative reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it’s a return. From 2017 to early 2020, he was a reporter at Public Integrity who contributed to the organization’s Goldsmith Prize-winning “Copy, Paste, Legislate” investigation, among other projects.

Zamudio is a national Peabody Award-winning reporter who covers immigration and other topics for WBEZ in Chicago. She previously worked as an investigative reporter at American Public Media, the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Chicago Reporter.

“I could not be more proud and excited to make this announcement and welcome both Maria and Kristian to our staff,” said Editor Mc Nelly Torres, who leads one of Public Integrity’s reporting teams. “They both bring an array of skills we need at Public Integrity as we continue to build an investigative newsroom that sheds light on inequities in America. I’m excited about the stories they will produce.”

Public Integrity, which has twice won the Pulitzer Prize and been recognized with numerous other top honors in journalism, is one of the oldest nonprofit news organizations in the country.

A deliberate commitment to building an organization that reflects the diversity of the people and communities it covers has resulted in a staff that went from 86% white in 2016 to one that is two-thirds people of color today. Latino journalists make up more than a quarter of Public Integrity’s newsroom, compared to 5% two years ago.

They include senior reporter Yvette Cabrera, incoming president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Torres, incoming vice president of digital for that board and an inductee into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame. 

In addition to his work at Public Integrity, Stateline and the Star-Telegram, Hernández has spent more than seven years following families in search of missing migrants across Central America, Mexico and the U.S. He’s written dozens of stories exposing how authorities too often fail to recover, identify and repatriate migrants that die on their journey north. 

Hernández’ reporting pressured U.S. Border Patrol in South Texas to launch the Missing Migrants Program in 2016.

He was also a part of the Washington Post team that gathered data on nearly 55,000 murders over a decade in 55 of America’s largest cities for the “Murder with Impunity” investigative series. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso and holds a master’s degree in investigative journalism from American University.

“I became a reporter because I felt an obligation to counter the misinformation and political grandstanding that shapes public opinion about the Texas-Mexico border where I grew up,” Hernández said. “I’m happy to be a part of a team focused on finding the communities and voices missing or excluded from the public eye.”

Zamudio, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in journalism with a minor in Latin American studies, was part of a team from NPR’s Latino USA that received a national Peabody Award. Her reporting from the Mexico-Guatemala border focused on the danger women face while traveling through Mexico to the United States.

Over the last two years, Zamudio’s coverage of Chicago’s water affordability crisis led to a moratorium on water shutoffs and the creation of a city-wide program to help low-income homeowners. Gov. JB Pritzker allocated $42 million for a new water assistance program following Zamudio’s investigation. Zamudio created a new model to reach audiences to ensure Chicagoans in debt had access to the reporting. It included mailing hundreds of postcards with a QR code  to residents enrolled in payment plans, holding community workshops and publishing a water resource guide.

“I met Mc Nelly at a fellowship. She was teaching. She was the first Latina investigative reporter I had ever met. She inspired me. If she can do it, I thought, so can I. Now, she’s my editor. I feel blessed that I now get to work with her.  I’m excited to investigate inequalities in the healthcare system,” Zamudio said. 

Founded in 1989, Public Integrity is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in the United States. Last year, the organization received widespread recognition for investigations including Hidden Epidemics, a series that revealed the unequal impact of climate change on communities, and Hidden Hardships, which showed how the migrant agricultural workers who produce the country’s food supply were unable to access COVID-19 economic and health protections.

The second season of Public Integrity’s Ambie Award-winning podcast, “The Heist,” confronts a centuries-long injustice: the propagation of the enormous wealth gap between Black and white Americans, and how a tenacious and entrepreneurial woman in Iowa is fighting back using the tools of the banking systems that helped perpetuate it.

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