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WLRN wins national Murrow Award for statewide public media project ‘Class of COVID-19’

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Illustration By Camila Kerwin, Graphic Design By Cassidy Alexander

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WLRN has won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for a wide-ranging multimedia project exploring how the pandemic affected education for kids who were already facing some of the biggest obstacles to success.

‘Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis for Florida’s Vulnerable Students’ is an extensive collaboration between Florida Public Media stations, who share the prize for the digital category in large radio markets.

The work was led by WLRN and its senior editor for news Jessica Bakeman, while WFSU's digital director Patricia Moynihan built the dynamic website that was the nerve center for the project.

The 2021 collaboration, launched nearly one year after widespread school closures began, documented how the pandemic was not only a health crisis but also an educational catastrophe that exacerbated educational inequity across Florida.

WLRN had already won nine regional Edward R. Murrow Awards earlier this year, including five for 'Class of COVID-19'. Last year, the station's newsroom won the national award for overall excellence for a large market.

“'Class of COVID-19' was a tremendous team effort. Journalists from across the state came together to cover this vital story in a comprehensive way — something none of the participating news organizations could have done alone,” said Bakeman.

“This recognition honors that collaborative spirit, and I hope it inspires more journalists to work together to serve our communities through unprecedented challenges.”

The project kicked off with a radio documentary and took many forms, including an hour long television special and a website featuring stellar writing, photography, illustrations and graphic design. It received regional exposure in the Miami Herald and national coverage on NPR. Later, the project was presented in yet another format: a Smithsonian-style exhibit at the South Florida Fair.

The team also created newsletters, some of which began with reporter’s notebook-style essays from journalists belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in public media.

Suria Rimer, a high school senior and intern at WLRN, wrote about seeing herself in her reporting: a queer teen who has struggled with mental illness. WLRN’s Palm Beach County reporter Wilkine Brutus reflected on his own “toolbox” for protecting his mental health, as a journalist and a Black man in America.

'Class of COVID-19' was produced through a partnership with the following public media organizations: WLRN (Miami), WGCU (Fort Myers), WFSU (Tallahassee), WUSF (Tampa), WMFE (Orlando), WUCF (Orlando), WPBT/WXEL (Miami/Boynton Beach), WJCT (Jacksonville), WEDU (Tampa) and WUWF (Pensacola).

The project was supported in part by the Hammer Family Charitable Foundation and the Education Writers Association.

The Murrow awards were created in 1971 by the Radio Television Digital News Association and are named in honor of Edward R. Murrow, a pioneer who set the standard for the highest quality of broadcast journalism.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Our journalists are continuing to work hard to keep you informed across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.