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ProPublica Announces New Reporting Teams for South and Southwest Units

ProPublica announced on Wednesday that it has hired eight reporters to join two of its new regional reporting units. Max Blau, Nicole Carr, Doug Bock Clark, Aliyya Swaby and Seth Freed Wessler will join the team covering the South, and Eli Hager, Mary Hudetz and Nicole Santa Cruz will join the Southwest team. Three additional reporters — one in the South and two in the Southwest — will be announced soon.

The newly formed regional reporting units are part of ProPublica’s commitment to local reporting through its recent expansion of local initiatives. Reporters will focus on issues including racial inequity, education and criminal justice. ProPublica’s regional units are led by Mara Shalhoup, South editor; Michael Squires, Southwest editor; and Louise Kiernan, Midwest editor. New hires in the Midwest unit were announced earlier this year.

“We are thrilled to add this exceptional group of journalists to our growing newsroom,” Shalhoup said. “The members of these two new teams have a proven ability to hold powerful interests and decision-makers accountable.”

“These reporters have the perfect set of skills to tackle in-depth reporting across the regions,” Squires said.

Here are the reporters joining the South regional unit:

Max Blau is currently an independent journalist working with Georgia Health News as part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, a collaboration that has investigated Georgia Power’s toxic waste disposal practices, racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths and a controversial loophole to fund nursing homes. Blau’s work has appeared in a variety of national publications, including Stat and Stateline, where he covered health care as a Southern correspondent. He also worked as a staff writer for CNN, Atlanta magazine and the Atlanta alt-weekly Creative Loafing, and he has published stories with the Atlantic, the New York Times, Politico magazine, Time and the Washington Post. His story about a death-row doctor who built an empire from treating Georgia inmates won the SPJ Green Eyeshade Award for investigative reporting in 2020.

Blau’s work at ProPublica will focus on health care, public health and the environment. He will be based in Atlanta.

Nicole Carr comes to ProPublica from WSB-TV in Atlanta, where she’s served as an investigative reporter. In addition to covering Georgia’s historic 2020 elections and various aspects of the pandemic, Carr’s work has been rooted in law enforcement and government accountability. Her report uncovering DNA test insurance fraud claims against a metro Atlanta lab launched a state investigation in 2019. In a joint 2020 investigation with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carr examined physical abuse and sexual misconduct incidents in National Guard youth camps. She was also among the first reporters to take an in-depth look at the initial investigation of Reality Winner, the former Georgia-based NSA contractor who’s serving the longest espionage sentence in U.S. history for leaking Russian election interference documents to the press.

Carr is the recipient of three Southeast Regional Emmy awards, including a 2020 Emmy for investigative reporting. She was also awarded a 2012 fellowship with the International Center for Journalists, which afforded her an opportunity to report on North Carolina’s growing agriculture and furniture export business in China. Her work at ProPublica will focus on criminal justice and racial inequity. She will be based in Atlanta

Doug Bock Clark joins ProPublica from GQ magazine, where as a correspondent his investigations contributed to getting two women off death row and revealed how the Trump administration had distorted classified intelligence to push the nation toward a confrontation with North Korea. His reporting for the New York Times Magazine also freed two unjustly imprisoned men from a foreign jail. He won the Arthur L. Carter Reporting Award and has been a finalist for the Livingston Award, the Mirror Award and the Excellence in Features Award from the Society of Features Journalists. His first book, “The Last Whalers,” was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2019. He has produced two feature documentaries inspired by his articles: “Assassins,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and “The Last Cruise” for HBO.

Clark has previously written about the South for the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and Wired. His work for ProPublica will focus on threats to democracy: that is, how unrepresentative groups seek to subvert democratic processes to gain power.

Aliyya Swaby was previously a reporter at the Texas Tribune, where she covered public education and state politics starting in 2016. Her reporting in Texas exposed school officials criminalizing students for vaping, highlighted the state’s role in remote learning failures and drew attention to mental health challenges among young children. She co-reported a yearlong project on the legacy of school segregation in Texas, which was a Livingston Award finalist. She also was a finalist for beat reporting in the 2017 National Awards for Education Reporting.

Before joining the Tribune, Swaby was a local reporter at the New Haven Independent covering public education, transit and zoning, and an independent reporter in Panama covering social issues in Black communities. Her work at ProPublica will focus on children and families, exploring the many intersections of education and social inequality. She will be based in Atlanta.

Seth Freed Wessler is an independent reporter and a fellow at Type Investigations. He has reported for the New York Times Magazine, Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting, Mother Jones, the Smithsonian Magazine, the Nation, This American Life and others. Wessler’s recent story on life inside a federal immigration facility in Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic won a Sidney Award in 2020. His first documentary film, an account of the same detention center, will be released with Field of Vision later in 2021. Wessler’s investigation into neglect in the U.S. Marshals Service’s detention system was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for reporting in 2020 and won the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Magazine Investigative Reporting and the Deadline Club Award for Investigative Audio Reporting. He shared a Peabody Award in 2019 for an investigation into public spending on Confederate memorials and heritage groups across the South. The project also won awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and an Online Journalism Award.

Wessler is a founder of the Gumshoe Group, an initiative to support freelance journalists, and was previously an enterprise reporter for, a reporter for and a Soros Justice Media Fellow. His work at ProPublica will focus on criminal justice and immigration. He will be based in Atlanta.

Here are the reporters joining the Southwest regional unit:

Eli Hager joins ProPublica from the Marshall Project, where as a staff writer for six years he focused primarily on juvenile justice, family court, foster care, schools and other issues affecting youth. A two-time Livingston Award finalist and three-time finalist for the Education Writers Association’s national award, his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Guardian, New York Magazine, USA Today, NPR and elsewhere. Hager’s investigation of juvenile justice agencies that bill parents for their children’s incarceration led to the practice being banned in Philadelphia the day after the story published and later statewide in California. After publishing a yearlong investigation of deaths, crashes, escapes and abuses on for-profit prisoner transport vans, the Justice Department launched a probe of the industry. Most recently, his investigation of “short-stayers” in New Mexico — kids taken from their families by police and placed in foster care only to be returned days later because the removal was unnecessary — helped prompt legislation that will require social workers, not cops, to perform all child removals. Hager’s work at ProPublica will focus on issues affecting children and teens. He will be based in Phoenix.

Mary Hudetz joins ProPublica from the Seattle Times’ investigative team, where she helped lead coverage of COVID-19’s spread inside the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home, site of the nation’s first known coronavirus outbreak. That work was recently selected as a finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation’s breaking news award. Previously, she was a law enforcement reporter for the Associated Press in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and an editor for AP’s West Regional Desk in Phoenix. An enrolled member of the Crow Tribe in Montana, Hudetz is a past president of the Native American Journalists Association. She has extensive experience investigating and writing about issues facing Native Americans and tribes, particularly in the Southwest. In 2019, her reporting with two AP colleagues on cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women won several awards, including a Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism from the News Leaders Association. Hudetz’s work at ProPublica will focus on investigating tribal issues throughout the region. She will be based in Albuquerque.

Nicole Santa Cruz joins ProPublica from the Los Angeles Times, where she spent nearly 12 years as a staff writer. As lead reporter on the Times’ Homicide Report, a groundbreaking public service project that documents every homicide victim in Los Angeles County, she reported on the lives of hundreds of people, highlighting neighborhoods that were disproportionately affected by violence and uncovering trends, including an increase in women being killed even as officials hailed a decline in murders. Santa Cruz also assembled a first-of-its-kind database of county prosecutor memos detailing fatal police encounters. She began her career on the Times’ national desk, from which she was dispatched to the swamps of Louisiana to cover the BP oil spill and to her hometown of Tucson, Arizona, to write about the 2011 mass shooting at an event held by then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Santa Cruz’s work at ProPublica will focus on investigating the impact of inequities on marginalized communities. She will be based in Phoenix.

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