May 31, 2024

By Nakylah Carter, IRE & NICAR

This edition of the I-Team Toolkit examines reporting on murder.

Journalists with ESPN Investigates and the Boston Globe share advice from their work in video and audio.

“LISTEN: ESPN Investigates Lauren McCluskey’s Murder”

ESPN’s documentary “LISTEN" dives deep into the 2018 murder of University of Utah track and field athlete Lauren McCluskey.

The 90-minute film from the ESPN Investigative and Enterprise Unit — by Nicole Noren, T.J. Quinn, William Weinbaum, Rayna Banks and Chris Buckle — explores McCluskey's murder and her parents’ quest for answers. Journalists weave together interviews with family and friends to tell the story of a bright young woman's life cut short after stalking and intimidation from an ex-boyfriend, and how she was failed by those who should have protected her.

“The biggest motivation to keep pursuing this investigation for me was that we knew material existed which could help tell a fuller story, if we took the time and energy to fight for it,” Noren said. “We started working on the story in January 2019 – not quite three months after Lauren was murdered – and realized very early on that in order to tell it the way we wanted to tell it, it was going to be a long-term commitment. It wasn’t our intent to cover it like a breaking news story.”

Quinn and Noren reported on this story for over four years and obtained records from the university and interviews of those who had never spoken publicly about the cases, including Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, former campus police officer Miguel Deras and parole agent Megan Thomson.

“We were actively reporting and acquiring new information and material, but we wanted to remain in the background and keep our focus wider, looking at how the institutions and people involved were responding and moving forward after this tragedy,” Noren said. “Also, we knew there was an abundance of unreleased material — surveillance videos, audio recordings, police interviews, etc. — that could paint the fuller picture of what transpired in the last days of Lauren’s life, but acquiring that material would take time, persistence, patience and resources.”

One of the biggest challenges that the team faced in reporting this story was obtaining interviews while there was an active civil lawsuit filed by the family and intense public scrutiny on the case.

“This is where time was a huge asset to us,” Quinn said. “Many of the people we reached out to either refused the first time or didn’t respond, and we kept circling back to them, promising only to listen and tell as accurate a story as we could. When we went back to people for a third, fourth, fifth time, we usually had more information to share about what we had learned, which sent a signal that we were going to be thorough, but also that we weren’t going away. 

“We were open about the topics we wanted to discuss, and time gave us the luxury of letting them ask us questions and then take time to think about it.”

"LISTEN" debuted March 28, 2023, on ESPN+ and ESPN+ on Hulu and was also the focus of a two-hour ABC News 20/20 program that week. The digital presentation of the story was published on March 28, 2023, on

The film was a finalist in the 2023 IRE Awards for Longform Journalism in Video. It also just won an EWA Award for Investigative & Public Service Reporting. 

On top of critical acclaim and journalism honors, Noren said "LISTEN" is now being used as the centerpiece of a growing education and impact campaign that is effecting change to a culture of belated and insufficient response to dating violence and stalking. "Numerous campus police departments and school safety officials across the country are now using the film as a training tool," she said.

The Boston Globe:

"Murder in Boston Podcast"

Youtube video. Newspaper clipping that reads "Reading woman dies after shooting in car"

The Boston Globe’s “Murder in Boston Podcast'' revealed shocking new information about the 1989 murder crime of a suburban couple. 

Originally thought to have been shot and murdered by a Black man in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Charles Stuart’s pregnant wife and unborn child were victims to Stuart himself. He murdered his family, committed suicide by drowning and framed an innocent victim. As the scheme unfolded in the following months, Boston's police department and government terrorized the neighborhood of Mission Hill with racist abuse.

“In short, there was a terrible, very public high-profile killing, in which they blamed it on the Black man. And the policemen embarked by many accounts on a rampage through the city's black neighborhoods,” said Brendan McCarthy, The Globe’s Spotlight editor.

The Globe’s audio investigation — led by McCarthy, Adrian Walker, Evan Allen, Kristin Nelson, Elizabeth Koh and Andrew Ryan — upended decades of misconceptions about the case, including identifying at least 33 people who knew and kept secret the fact that Stuart was behind the murder, “a sprawling conspiracy far bigger than anybody ever knew.”

“As journalists, you're opening some old wounds, in many ways. From people on all sides of this, who had traumatic experiences,” McCarthy said. “That said, it's through a door knock or through outreach that we found time and again, people wanted to share the stories. In fact, people kept telling us they’ve been waiting over 30 years for someone to knock on their door.” 

The reporting team went door to door to find sources for their story, careful to attempt to leave no stone unturned. McCarthy recalls early on making a list that included more than 400 names of people in or around the story, even finding names from old newspaper archives. 

“We made a really focused effort on telling the story the right way through the lens of the people that were most affected,” he said. “We were able to use this case in the city's history … to really examine the city today, and its progress.” 

The Globe’s team also outlined how the city’s police deliberately ignored key evidence against Stuart and instead focused on building a murder case against an innocent Black man. Reporters also found evidence that suggested a third person might have been involved in the shooting, a possibility that was never fully investigated after Stuart committed suicide.

“It certainly was a challenge to tell such a huge sweeping story that affected so many people 34 years after the fact,” McCarthy said. “That said, I think you'll see with the audio that we captured and the reporting that we did, we really brought it to life. And the lens through which we examined these really tough weight issues, moved people when they eventually read [the nine-part series] and heard the podcast.”

The podcast won for Longform Journalism in Audio at the 2023 IRE Awards.

More resources

Every day, journalists knock on someone’s door in the process of covering a crime story. We cold-call or message victims, survivors and witnesses. When the story breaks, we report on mass shootings and war all the while having little to no training on how to do the work of journalism in a trauma-informed way that could limit retraumatizing victims and communities. 

Learning how to report adequately and empathetically can make all the difference when tackling hard subjects – especially murder. Because of this, IRE helped organize a webinar titled “Cover crime? You need to hear this: Victim-first, trauma-informed reporting” on May 14. This webinar was co-presented with the Society of Professional Journalists.

A recording is available on the IRE website, but you must be logged in to access it.

Let’s find ways to inform without hurting, to advocate without retraumatizing, to talk to people in pain so that we may help them heal – rather than leaving more agony in our wake. 

IRE news & updates

Don't miss these upcoming training opportunities!

For a full list of upcoming events, check out the Events Calendar on the IRE website. We have a June 10 webinar on "Digging into covering immigration," IRE Board office hours on June 11, a "Reporting on queer policies, legislation and politics" webinar on June 12 and so much more including: 

  • 2024 IRE Conference (June 20-23): IRE's annual investigative journalism conference will take place in Anaheim, California. Regular registration for $425 is available through June 18, 2024. Students can register anytime for $100.
  • AccessFest 2024 pitches (June 30): Have any ideas relating to diversity, equity, inclusion or belonging for the journalism profession or communities we cover? We have a conference for that. Now through June 30, IRE is accepting pitches for the annual 2024 AccessFest Conference. Previously branded as the DBEI Symposium, AccessFest will feature data classes and traditional investigative reporting panels typically presented at NICAR and IRE conferences. AccessFest24 will be held online, October 17-19. Registration for AccessFest24 is open now!
  • Data Journalism Bootcamp (Aug. 5-9): This five-day bootcamp covering Google Sheets and Python will be offered in person at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Current IRE membership is required.
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