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KOSU, Focus: Black Oklahoma win Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for "Blindspot: Tulsa Burning" podcast collaboration

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Founded in 1942, the duPont-Columbia Awards uphold the highest standards in journalism by honoring winners annually, informing the public about those journalists' contributions, and supporting journalism education and innovation.

KOSU has won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning,” a collaborative podcast with Focus: Black Oklahoma, WNYC Studios and The History Channel.

The duPont-Columbia University Awards are considered one of the most prestigious in journalism, recognizing investigations, podcasts and documentary films for the strength of their reporting, storytelling and impact in the public interest.

In its 80-year history, duPont-Columbia has given five awards to Oklahoma organizations, and two of those have been to KOSU. Its first win came in 1985.

“KOSU has played a key role in bringing this important story to the forefront,” said Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum. “I am proud of the work KOSU has done, and the high bar it continues to set for journalism in Oklahoma."

The 16 winners of the 2022 awards also include NPR, PBS and The New York Times.

On May 31, 1921, Tulsa's Greenwood District was thriving — a Black city within a city. By June 1, it was in ashes, leveled by a white supremacist mob. The Tulsa Race Massacre remains one of the worst incidents of racial terror in U.S. history. In six episodes, Blindspot: Tulsa Burning tells the story of a thriving neighborhood that attackers set on fire, and the scars that remain 100 years later.

The six-episode “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning” podcast explores the racial terror that destroyed the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, 100 years ago. Through conversations with descendants, historians and local activists, the series considers how the traumatic two-day attack continues to take a toll.

The jury proclaimed the podcast as an “immersive, deeply reported series” that “placed powerful eyewitness voices at the heart of a century-old narrative.”

The podcast season began as an idea conceived by Focus: Black Oklahoma executive producer Quraysh Ali Lansana for broadcast on KOSU.

“This series was an idea that I envisioned more than two years ago. It was crafted on the front porch and ended up as an award-winning show. We laid the foundation and the structure and brought it to WNYC and HISTORY Channel,” said Lansana, who is also a Tulsa Artist Fellow and leads the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation at OSU-Tulsa. “This series is Oklahoma born and Oklahoma made, and I’m very proud of that.”

Combining its local expertise and sources, the collaboration was then brought to WNYC and The History Channel to be built upon and shared with a national audience.

“We are so honored to be part of elevating stories that have been ignored for decades,” said KOSU Executive Director Rachel Hubbard. “This unique collaboration gave life to the success and the tragedy of Greenwood.”

The stories of everyday people and voice actors reading eyewitness accounts from 1921 make the story come to life. It helps listeners understand the confusion and tragedy for Black Tulsans who lived in the 40 blocks that comprise Greenwood. Though the death toll is unknown, it's estimated hundreds lost their lives and thousands lost their homes and jobs to the destruction.

“I would give up this award to reverse the events of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre,” host KalaLea said in her acceptance speech. “If it never happened, we would all be better for it. But it’s not too late for some course correction and healing.”

The Oklahoma production for this podcast was made possible in part by The Inasmuch Foundation and George Kaiser Family Foundation.

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