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A Center for Public Integrity podcast about one woman’s quest to chip away at an enduring American injustice has been nominated for a Peabody Award.

“The Wealth Vortex” season of The Heist podcast, in partnership with Transmitter Media, is among 60 nominees selected from nearly 1,300 entries across broadcasting and digital media. Thirty winners will be announced May 9.

The Peabody Awards recognizes “storytelling achievements,” whether to inform or entertain, and were first issued in 1941 as broadcasting’s answer to the Pulitzer Prize. Other nominees this year include The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks documentary, the Abbott Elementary television series and PBS NewsHour’s “Guns in America” coverage.

The Wealth Vortex follows Iowa entrepreneur ReShonda Young as she tries to start a Black-owned bank to help address the racial wealth gap in her community, a local manifestation of a nationwide problem fueled by centuries of discrimination, institutionalized theft and violence. 

To launch a bank, you need a lot of money. The Wealth Vortex podcast showed how the country’s wealth gap will fight back every step of the way.

Twenty-one people across the two media organizations worked on the podcast and related elements. That team includes host and reporter Jamie Smith Hopkins from Public Integrity and producers Camille Petersen, Mitchell Johnson and Isabel Carter and executive editor Sara Nics from Transmitter Media.

“ReShonda Young shared the highs and lows of her journey with us for more than a year, powerfully illuminating the challenges of tackling a problem when it’s woven into the fabric of our country,” Hopkins said. “This is a story about persistence in the face of that daunting task. Young and others in her Waterloo community who are working to make it more equitable are still going.”

As an editor at Public Integrity, Hopkins leads a team of reporters who have published major investigations over the past few years into school policing, student homelessness, the toll of climate change on marginalized communities and systemic inequities in state and federal tax policy. Previously, she worked as a senior reporter and as the organization’s environment editor. She joined Public Integrity in 2014 after working as a reporter at The Baltimore Sun.

“This is the kind of story that only gets told through a deep commitment to building relationships of trust and equity with sources, something that’s always guided Jamie’s work as a reporter and an editor,” said Public Integrity Editor-in-Chief Matt DeRienzo. “A Peabody nomination as a first-time podcast host is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the way that Jamie was able to offer a nuanced and wide-ranging look at one of the country’s biggest divides through the personal story of someone who is fighting it with relentless optimism.”  

This is Transmitter Media’s second Peabody nomination; its Finding Fred podcast about the beloved “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” host was a 2019 nominee.

“It was an honor to work with Jamie and the Center for Public Integrity to tell this important story — and history — in audio,” said Petersen, who was also a producer on The Heist’s first season. “I think the series shows what a true collaboration between an investigative reporter and a team of audio producers can accomplish: thorough, crucial, compelling storytelling that does justice to the complex subject matter.”

The Wealth Vortex was a finalist at this year’s Ambie Awards, described as the Oscars of podcasting, and won a Best in Business award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. The project is also a Signal Awards silver award honoree and second-place winner of the Shaufler Prize in Journalism

Young told listeners during a live event in March that she has a larger team working with her now and feels closer to her goal to launch the Bank of Jabez than she did a year earlier, when the podcast aired. It would be the only Black-owned bank in her state and, potentially, the first such startup nationwide in more than 20 years.

Public Integrity is a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit investigative news organization focused on inequality in the U.S. Transmitter Media is now part of Pushkin Industries — the award-winning audio production company founded by Malcolm Gladwell. 

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