Created by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, Reveal is public radios first one-hour weekly radio show and podcast dedicated to investigative reporting. Credible, fact based and without a partisan agenda, Reveal combines the power and artistry of driveway moment storytelling with data-rich reporting on critically important issues. The result is stories that inform and inspire, arming our listeners with information to right injustices, hold the powerful accountable and improve lives.Reveal is hosted by Al Letson and showcases the award-winning work of CIR and newsrooms large and small across the nation. In a radio and podcast market crowded with choices, Reveal focuses on important and often surprising stories that illuminate the world for our listeners.

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Locked Up: The Prison Labor That Built Business Empires

After the Civil War, a new form of slavery took hold in the US and lasted more than 60 years. Associated Press reporters Margie Mason and Robin McDowell investigate the chilling history of how Southern states imprisoned mainly Black men, often for minor crimes, and then leased them out to private companies – for years, even decades, at a time. The team talks with the descendant of a man imprisoned in the Lone Rock stockade in Tennessee nearly 140 years ago, where people as young as 12 worked under inhumane conditions in coal mines and inferno-like ovens used to produce iron. This system of forced prison labor enriched the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad company – at the cost of prisoners’ lives.  At the state park that sits on the former site of the Lone Rock stockade, relics from the hellish prison are buried beneath the soil. Archeologist Camille Westmont has found thousands of artifacts, such as utensils and the plates prisoners ate off. She has also created a database listing the names of those sent to Lone Rock. A team of volunteers are helping her, including a woman reckoning with her own ancestor’s involvement in this corrupt system and the wealth her family benefited from.    The United States Steel Corporation helped build bridges, railroads and towering skyscrapers across America. But the company also relied on forced prison labor. After US Steel took over Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad in 1907, the industrial giant used prison labor for at least five more years. During that time, more than 100 men died while working in their massive coal mining operation in Alabama. U.S. Steel has misrepresented this dark chapter of its history. And it has never apologized for its use of forced labor or the lives lost. The reporters push the company to answer questions about its past and engage with communities near the former mines.  This is an update of an episode that originally aired September 2022. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

The Double Life of a Civil Rights Icon

Some of the most enduring photos of the civil rights movement were taken by Ernest Withers. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Withers earned the trust of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. But as it turns out, he was secretly taking photos for the federal government as well. This week, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Wesley Lowery brings us the story of Withers in an adaptation of the podcast “Unfinished: Ernie’s Secret,” from Scripps News and Stitcher. Lowery starts by explaining how Withers earned his reputation as a chronicler of the civil rights movement. We tour a museum of Withers’ photographs with his daughter Roz, who deconstructs his famous “I Am a Man” photo of striking sanitation workers. Civil rights leader Andrew Young explains that without Withers’ photographs, they wouldn’t have had a movement. We then learn that after Withers’ death, a Memphis reporter named Marc Perrusquia followed up on an old lead about the photographer: that he was secretly working for the FBI. Perrusquia gained access to thousands of reports and photos taken for the FBI by Withers. We hear excerpts from several reports and meet the daughter of the agent who recruited Withers. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the bureau recruited thousands of informants as part of a covert program originally created to monitor communists in America but ended up targeting the civil rights movement, as well as other individuals and groups.  We close with reflections on Withers by people who knew him. While some believe Withers betrayed the cause of civil rights, others are more forgiving. They say his actions were part of a larger narrative about the U.S. government’s unchecked power to spy on its own citizens and extinguish ideas and movements it felt were a threat.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Drilling Down on Fossil Fuels and Climate Change

The United States has pledged to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, but Russia’s war in Ukraine set off a bonanza for liquefied natural gas, or LNG. Today, we look at how energy companies and the Biden administration are backsliding on promises to move away from oil and gas.   In response to Europe’s need for natural gas as it lost access to Russian supplies, America’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, Cheniere Energy, is expanding its facilities in Corpus Christi, Texas. Reporter Elizabeth Shogren talks with local residents who are organizing to fight the expansion and discovers that many LNG contracts are not with Europe after all.   During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to end drilling for oil and gas on federal land and offshore waters. And on his first day in office, he froze new drilling leases. But the administration backtracked and instead has increased the number of leases it’s offering to oil and gas companies. Host Al Letson gets a report card on Biden’s climate policy from two experts who are tracking his environmental record. For many years, prominent Republicans disputed the existence of climate change and fought against environmental policies. That didn’t sit well with a young conservative college student, who in 2016 tried to put climate change on his party’s agenda. Reveal reporter Jonathan Jones talks with the founder of the American Conservation Coalition and tracks how successful the group has been in getting Republican legislators to address climate change.  Republicans and Democrats may struggle to find common ground on addressing climate change. But for a tiny, predominantly Indigenous community in Alaska, it’s already too late. Reporter Emily Schwing went to Chevak to report on the damage from a recent storm and soon discovered a problem with the federal government’s response. Many residents don’t speak English as their first language, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is required to translate disaster relief notices into local languages. But FEMA bungled the translations, delaying much-needed aid and sowing distrust.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

‘Traitors Get Shot’

The bipartisan Congressional committee investigating the January 6th insurrection recommended that former president Donald Trump face criminal charges for sparking the attempted coup. We look back at the case of Guy Reffitt, the first person to be prosecuted for his role in the violent insurrection.  On Jan. 6, 2021, teenager Jackson Reffitt watched the Capitol riot play out on TV from his family home in Texas. His father, Guy, had a much closer view: He was in Washington, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, storming the building.  When Guy Reffitt returned home, Jackson secretly taped him and turned the recordings over to the FBI. His father bragged about what he did, saying: “I had every constitutional right to carry a weapon and take over the Congress.” Guy Reffitt was the first person to stand trial for his role in the riot, and the case has divided his family.  This week, Reveal features the story of the Reffitt family by partnering with the podcast Will Be Wild from Pineapple Street Studios, Wondery and Amazon Music. Hosted by Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, Will Be Wild’s eight-part series investigates the forces that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection and what comes next. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

A Young Doctor Reflects on COVID

The pandemic isn’t past tense. While COVID-19 vaccines have made it possible to gather with friends and hug loved ones again, the world is still living with the virus – and too many people are still dying because of it. More than a million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including about 250,000 people in 2022. To reflect on the lives the world has lost, we’re revisiting an episode that follows a young doctor through her first year of medical residency during the height of the pandemic.  Kaiser Health News reporter Jenny Gold spent eight months following Dr. Paloma Marin-Nevarez, who graduated from the Stanford University medical school in June 2020, right before the virus began its second major surge. She was one of more than 30,000 new doctors who started residencies in 2020. Just weeks after graduating, Marin-Nevarez began training as an ER doctor at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, one of the areas in California hardest hit by the pandemic.  Marin-Nevarez faces the loneliness and isolation of being a new doctor, working 80 hours a week in the era of masks and social distancing. She also witnesses the inequality of the pandemic, with Latino, Black and Native American people dying of COVID-19 at much higher rates than White people. Marin-Nevarez finds herself surrounded by death and having to counsel families about the loss of loved ones. We view the pandemic through the eyes of a rookie doctor, finding her footing on the front lines of the virus.  This is an update of an episode that originally aired in February 2021.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

The Suspect Detective

In 2010, Milique Wagner was arrested for a murder he says he had nothing to do with. The night of the shooting, Wagner was picked up for questioning and spent three days in the Philadelphia Police Department’s homicide unit, mostly being questioned by a detective named Philip Nordo.  Nordo was a rising star in the department, known for putting in long hours and closing cases – he had a hand in convicting more than 100 people. But that day in the homicide unit, Wagner says Nordo asked him some unnerving questions: Would he ever consider doing porn? Guy-on-guy porn?  Wagner would go on to be convicted of the murder in a case largely built by Nordo — and Wagner’s experience has led him to believe Nordo fabricated evidence and coerced false statements to frame him. For years, Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Chris Palmer and Samantha Melamed have dug into Nordo’s career, looking into allegations of his misconduct. In this episode, they follow the rumors to defense attorney Andrew Pappas, who subpoenas the prison call log between Nordo and one of his informants. It’s there he finds evidence that something is not right about the way Nordo is conducting his police work.  It’s Pappas’ findings that prompted the Philadelphia district attorney’s office to launch an investigation into Nordo. The patterns that prosecutors found by reviewing Nordo’s calls and emails with incarcerated men, examining his personnel file, and interviewing men who interacted with him showed shocking coercion and abuse. Almost 20 years after the first complaint was filed against Nordo, the disgraced detective’s actions became public. He was charged and his case went to trial. Palmer and Melamed analyze the fallout from the scandal, and seek answers from the Philadelphia Police Department on how they addressed Nordo’s misconduct and how he got away with it for so long.   Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us onTwitter,Facebook andInstagram

No Retreat: The Dangers of Stand Your Ground

The killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 marked the beginning of a new chapter of the struggle for civil rights in America. A mostly White jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the teen’s murder, in part because Florida’s stand your ground law permits a person to use deadly force in self-defense – even if that person could have safely retreated. Nationwide protests after the trial called for stand your ground laws to be repealed and reformed. But instead, stand your ground laws have expanded to 38 states. Reveal reporter Jonathan Jones talks with Byron Castillo, a maintenance worker in North Carolina who was shot in the chest after mistakenly trying to get into the wrong apartment for a repair. While Castillo wound up out of work and deep in debt, police and prosecutors declined to pursue charges against the shooter, who said he was afraid someone was trying to break into his apartment. Researchers have found that states that enacted stand your ground laws have seen an increase in homicides – one study estimated that roughly 700 more people die in the U.S. every year because of stand your ground laws. Opponents of stand your ground laws call them by a different name: “kill at will” laws. Jones speaks to lawmakers like Stephanie Howse, who fought against stand your ground legislation as an Ohio state representative, saying such laws put Black people's lives at risk. Howse and other Democratic lawmakers faced off against Republican politicians, backed by pro-gun lobbyists, intent on passing a stand your ground bill despite widespread opposition from civil rights groups and law enforcement. Modern-day stand your ground laws started in Florida. Reveal reporter Nadia Hamdan explores a 2011 road rage incident that wound up leading to an expansion of the law. She looks at how one case led Florida lawmakers, backed by the National Rifle Association, to enact a law that spells out that prosecutors, not defendants, have the burden of proof when claiming someone was not acting in self-defense when committing an act of violence against another individual. This episode originally aired in July 2022. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

The Bitter Work Behind Sugar

Sugar is a big part of Americans’ daily diet, but we rarely ask where that sweet cane comes from.   In November, the United States announced that it will block all imports of raw sugar from one of those sources: the cane fields owned by the Central Romana Corp. in the Dominican Republic. U.S. Customs and Border Protection cited labor abuses in its decision. Sugar from Central Romana feeds into the supply chains of major U.S. brands, including Domino and Hershey.  The federal government’s action follows a two-year investigation by Reveal and Mother Jones. Reporters Sandy Tolan and Euclides Cordero Nuel visited Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic who do the backbreaking work of cutting sugarcane for little pay. Central Romana is the Dominican Republic’s largest private employer and has strong links to two powerful Florida businessmen, Alfonso and Pepe Fanjul. The reporters speak to workers who have no access to government pensions, so they’re forced to work in the fields into their 80s for as little as $3 a day. In the 1990s, Tolan reported on human trafficking and child labor in the Dominican sugar industry. Conditions improved following pressure on the government from local activists, human rights groups and the U.S. Labor Department. But major problems have persisted.   After Reveal’s story first aired in fall 2021, Congress took action. Fifteen members of the House Ways and Means Committee called on federal agencies to formulate a plan to address what they called the “slave-like conditions” in the Dominican cane fields. Central Romana also took action: It bulldozed one of the worker camps our reporters visited, claiming it was part of an improvement program. Residents say that with very little warning, they were told to pack up their lives. Central Romana denies the U.S. government’s recent findings that its cane cutters are working under forced labor conditions. This is an update of an episode that originally aired in September 2021.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram