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Special Project

Special Project
From the 12th Annual Shorty Awards

Up from the Grave with Don Lemon

Finalist in Podcast


Try to imagine your ancestors dying without sharing their stories.  From the good to the bad, your history would be lost.  Additionally, the lessons that came with them.  What’s left when there is no history is an ambiguous future. To prevent that in this diverse culture, some communities memorialize their past tragedies so it can never happen again, for example, 9/11 or The Holocaust.  There is a famous quote, "To know where you're going, you need to know where you are coming from."  It’s for that reason, grandparents pass down their culture, memories, and lessons.

When tragedies remain in the dark, the memory of the victim dies with them. It robs the public of asking questions and getting answers.

Strategy and Execution

While information gathering, we experimented with Podcasts.  Deciding to make it unique, instead of a question and answer format, we innovated our own and selected an audio movie format--- aimed at stimulating the imagination.

To create scenes, we gathered research from the 1930s and 1950s.  We scoured many libraries and extracted information from microfiche.  We discovered a report that provided an insight to not only the condition of the school, but the treatment of the boys.  We also took advantage of giving listeners a thorough education about the different towns across the state of Arkansas, where the boys called home.  That meant we had to research the specific attributes of the town/city and even historic almanac during the 1950s to painting a vivid picture. We stacked sound effects to create an orchestra of audio imagery.

From articles, we found the names of survivors who gave quotes to reporters the night of the fire.  It was important to transport the listener back in time, so we creatively used actors to re-enact quotes as given to news reporter to drive home the point that children went through this tragedy.  In the end we made a very visual podcast.


The impact of this story became very clear to us, when during our reporting the state of Arkansas hastily responds and issues a resolution, apologizing to the families for the first time in sixty years, before we could publish our story.  Due to our reporting the state of Arkansas acknowledged the tragedy.  Shortly after the resolution, the state also put up a memorial plaque at the correctional facility.  


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