Reveal, a new investigative radio show

Mar 6, 2014

How does heroin end up on the streets of Chicago? Why are minors being held in solitary confinement – even when they haven’t been convicted of a crime? And what happens when you pair poets with investigative journalists?

These are just a few of the questions explored in the second pilot episode of “Reveal,” a new radio show dedicated to investigative journalism from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Hear the broadcast Sunday evening, March 9, at 7:00 p.m.

On this episode: 

Heroin LLC: From Mexico, across the border, to Chicago and beyond

Chicago has become one of America’s most important distribution centers for illegal narcotics. Law enforcement says the Sinaloa cartel effectively has a monopoly over heroin and methamphetamine moving from Mexico to Chicago. But even with the recent arrest of its leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, this almost century-old drug route is unlikely to change much.

G.W. Schulz, a reporter at The Center for Investigative Reporting (left), talks with Reveal host Al Letson (right). The cities of El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico stretch beneath them.

  In this episode, “Reveal” host Al Letson travels to El Paso, Texas, to meet up with G.W. Schulz, CIR’s border and national security reporter, to get a bird’s-eye view of what happens as drugs and other goods pass over one of the world's busiest border crossings.

See just how many drugs were seized by the Border Patrol between 2005 and 2011 in this interactive map.

Then we go to Chicago to reveal in detail exactly how the business of drugs operates and continues to dominate neighborhoods and economies. Heroin LLC, a yearlong investigation by Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ and the Chicago Reader, breaks down the big business of drugs from El Paso to Chicago's south and west sides, to the suburbs and across the Midwest. We hear from transportation coordinators who specialize in moving high volumes of heroin, longtime dealers who spill the secrets to cutting drugs to extend profit margins, and users and addicts trapped in a deadly spiral, desperate to find new users.

Read the investigation from WBEZ and the Chicago Reader here.  

Teens in solitary confinement

New York City’s Rikers Island is one of the country's biggest jails: It houses about 12,000 adults, alongside hundreds of 16- and 17-year-olds. 

Many of these juveniles – most of whom have been charged but not yet tried – end up in solitary confinement as punishment for breaking rules like fighting, possessing cigarettes or even horseplay.

No media outlets have been allowed to see the solitary cells, which inmates call “the box.” And no one can talk to the teens who are there.

But reporters Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy from The Center for Investigative Reporting talked to young men, elected officials and guards who have been there – creating a disturbing portrait of life inside the box.

Below, watch CIR’s new animation, “The Box,” about one juvenile’s experience of life in solitary confinement. It features "Life in Marvelous Times," a song from Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, and produced by DJ Preservation.

Reporters and poets

An unlikely union has formed in the Bay Area: Local poets from Richmond, Calif., teamed up with CIR reporter Amy Julia Harris for her investigation into living conditions for tenants of the Richmond Housing Authority, one of America’s worst public housing agencies.

The result: “This is Home,” a collaborative piece of multimedia storytelling that spotlights the findings and characters in CIR’s investigation, reported in partnership with the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED. In “Reveal,” Letson gets a preview from one of the poets, Donte Clark, but you can watch the full film by the Off/Page Project below:

Relieving veterans’ pain

On the debut pilot of “Reveal,” CIR’s Aaron Glantz uncovered how the Department of Veterans Affairs has been prescribing highly addictive pain medications at an alarming rate – even to patients who are known addicts.

Data obtained by CIR show how opiate prescriptions by the VA have skyrocketed between 2001 and 2012  – a 270 percent increase.

You can see how many opiates the VA is prescribing veterans in your area in CIR’s interactive map.

Since that report aired, we’ve already seen results. Glantz returns to “Reveal” to discuss a congressional hearing held in the wake of CIR’s investigation and how lawmakers might address the spike in opiate prescriptions.

‘No animals were harmed’

Making our way to the big screen, “Reveal” takes you behind the “no animals were harmed” line that you often see in movies. While that language may assuage viewers, a recent investigation by The Hollywood Reporter found that animals actually were harmed in some of the films that carried the disclaimer.

THR reporter Gary Baum joins Letson to discuss the investigation and what moviegoers need to know when they see animals on the big screen. Read THR’s full story here.

A farmworker speaks out

Closing out the program, we hear directly from one of the sources featured in CIR’s Rape in the Fields investigation with FRONTLINE, Univision and the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Farmworker Maricruz Ladino says one of her supervisors raped in her in 2006, but she didn’t say anything for months. Once she decided to file a complaint with the company that ran the farm where she and her supervisor worked, she was fired. Ladino joins “Reveal” to talk with CIR reporter Bernice Yeung about the struggles she endured after she came forward and how speaking out has empowered her.

Watch the full documentary on CIR’s website here.