The Seattle Times | KNKX Public Radio, 2023
Author(s): Patrick Malone | The Seattle Times , Mayowa Aina, Will James and Kari Plog | KNKX Public Radio
Investigative journalists from The Seattle Times and NPR radio station KNKX collaborated to produce a ground-breaking podcast series that intricately traces the life of Manuel Ellis, a black man who died while in police custody in Tacoma, Wash.
By telling the compelling story of one man’s lifelong struggles with mental illness, trauma, addiction and homelessness, the podcast provides listeners with thoughtful analysis and poignant insight, drawing attention to the systems, policing policies and prejudices that underlie a problem that persists in communities across America.
The extraordinary podcast series is unique in its use of sounds of Tacoma and originally scored music by local musicians, setting a compelling tone that engages listeners and provides backdrop to Ellis’s life story and the underlying, systemic issues that eventually led to his death.
The series relies on dozens of exclusive interviews and a review of more than 4,000 pages of public records. The collaborative reporting team examined records detailing 45 contacts Ellis had with police, beginning when he was 13 years old and ending on the night he died 20 years later at the age of 33.
Following the podcast, the state police academy cited the work when it updated its curriculum, and a community survey of Tacoma residents showed overwhelming support to give the local police advisory board investigative and enforcement powers.