Locals living in Lafayette, Ind., have long believed that their community has suffered as a result of the Chicago Housing Authority's closure of residential high-rises. A wave of poor black families moved to town, they say, bringing poverty and crime with them. But the data remain unconvincing.
Through a combination of data-driven investigation and in-depth interviews, my colleague and I spent months assembling a two-part series for the Lafayette Journal & Courier in fall 2014. The result, titled "The Great Chicago Migration Myth," threw cold water on the notion that shifting demographics are to blame for Lafayette's struggles, and it challenged the myth's racially charged undertones, placing the local conversations on race and policing into a broader national and historical context.
The project was named "Story of the Year" by both the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association. It won First Place in non-deadline journalism from the Indiana SPJ; First Place in news without deadline pressure from the HSPA; First Place in public service journalism from the Gannett Co. annual awards of excellence; First Place in First Amendment journalism from the Indiana Associated Press Media Editors awards; and the National Low Income Housing Coalition's annual media award.
In addition to sparking hearty and much-needed debate locally, the piece was featured by WBEZ's Morning Shift in Chicago.