May 18, 2021
The impact of reporter Ian Shapira’s deep dive into the troubled culture at the nation’s oldest state-support military college was seismic: within days, the Virginia Military Institute’s leader had resigned, and Gov. Ralph Northam pledged an independent investigation. Shapira won the Hechinger Grand Prize in this year’s National Awards for Education Reporting for his stories on VMI, which detailed a culture and climate that venerated the Confederacy and too often tolerated racist language and behavior. Shapira shares how he built trust among sources, including college students who had experienced harassment, and how he overcame hurdles such as getting access to disciplinary records to verify allegations that Black and brown students were more often targeted for harsh treatment.