In the powerful 7-part audio series, Chicago mother Shapearl Wells probes her son Courtney Copeland’s 2016 homicide and joins forces with a team of journalists to confront the Chicago Police and challenge the city’s long-standing racial disparities
New York, N.Y. – June 11, 2021 – “Somebody,” the seven-part podcast series produced by Invisible Institute, The Intercept and Topic Studios is a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting.
This series documents Chicago mother Shapearl Wells’ quest to find out what happened to her son, Courtney Copeland, a 22-year-old man who wound up with a bullet in his back outside a Chicago Police station in 2016 and died. The Pulitzer Prize follows a series of other accolades, including wins from the distinguished Scripps Howard (Excellence in Radio / Podcast Coverage), IDA (Independent Documentary Association) (Best Audio Documentary), Adweek (Podcast Host of the Year), Third Coast International (Best Serialized Story), Headliner (Best Criminal Justice / Crime podcast), and the prestigious National Magazine (Ellie) Award (Podcasting Category).
After hearing the Pulitzer news, Shapearl Wells said: “All of this was for Courtney. I share this honor not just with the team, but with him. I am honored for this opportunity and platform to tell our story, and I hope it brings more people to a greater understanding of the disregard Black people experience in every dimension of our lives.”
“This recognition from the Pulitzer Board is meaningful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it brings attention to the story of what happened to Courtney Copeland. The more people hear about Shapearl Wells’ quest for justice for her son, the more they will see how the inhumanity of police inflicts a profound toll on Black families in our country,” says The Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed. “This recognition reflects the creative outcome of intensive collaboration among The Intercept (especially deputy editor Roger Hodge) and the Invisible Institute – a national treasure for investigative journalism – and Topic Studios, our brilliant colleagues at First Look Media.”
Alison Flowers, investigative journalist at the Invisible Institute and one of the podcast’s producers, together with co-producer Bill Healy and story editor Sarah Geis, also said: “We are grateful that the Pulitzer Prize Board has recognized this vital form of journalism. But above all, we are grateful to Shapearl for her trust. This podcast is not just about what happened to her son. It’s about the powerful moral perspective of motherhood as the basis for extraordinary resistance. This is why we need more voices like Shapearl’s in journalism, and more journalistic organizations that are willing to put their craft at the service of someone else’s experience.”
Maria Zuckerman, head of Topic Studios, also stated: “We are honored to have helped bring this singular podcast to the world, and now, for this thrilling recognition from the Pulitzer Board. At the heart of this podcast is Shapearl Wells’ voice, which continues to take our breath away with its bravery and determination. We thank Shapearl for bringing us all on this narrative journey with her. Topic Studios is also proud to be associated with the spectacular investigative journalism of the Invisible Institute and our fellow First Look Media organization, The Intercept, in co-producing ‘Somebody.’”
Disrupting the genre of investigative journalism podcasts, “Somebody” is narrated by Wells, who guides listeners to explore questions of police accountability and public trust. Wells is the Vice President of the Courtney Copeland Memorial Foundation, which works to reduce violence, strengthen education and build rapport between the community and police.
In the series, Wells is joined by Chicago journalist Alison Flowers, who leads investigations at the Invisible Institute on the South Side of Chicago, and Bill Healy, an independent radio producer. Over three years, the “Somebody” team sought answers in Copeland’s death, uncovering new evidence and calling the police to account along the way for their actions.
To learn more about the making of “Somebody,” visit somebodypodcast.com.
“Somebody” is a co-production of the Invisible Institute, The Intercept, Topic Studios, and iHeartRadio, in association with Tenderfoot TV. “Somebody is available everywhere podcasts are heard and is distributed by the iHeartPodcast Network.
Invisible Institute is a nonprofit journalism production company on the South Side of Chicago. Its mission is to enhance the capacity of citizens to hold public institutions accountable. Among the tactics the Invisible Institute employs are investigative reporting, multimedia storytelling, human rights documentation, the curation of public information, and the orchestration of difficult public conversations. The organization’s work coheres around a central principle: we as citizens have co-responsibility with the government for maintaining respect for human rights and, when abuses occur, for demanding redress.
The Intercept is an award-winning nonprofit news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Its in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on surveillance, war, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media and more. This year, The Intercept already published a series of groundbreaking projects including a multipart examination of President Joe Biden’s decadeslong record on foreign and military issues, titled “Empire Politician.” Also in 2021, our newsroom won a number of important journalism accolades including a Headliner Award (Best in Show) and the Overseas Press Club’s Hal Boyle Award, for the feature “The CIA’s Afghan Death Squads;” an Izzy Award for our coverage of President Trump’s federal penalty program; and a Mirror Award nomination for our piece on how the Trump Administration suppressed photography of the pandemic. The Intercept is a division of First Look Institute, a nonprofit organization.
About Topic Studios: Topic Studios, the award-winning entertainment studio from First Look Media, develops, finances and produces provocative and entertaining content for all platforms including theatrical, streaming, television and podcasts. Films from Topic Studios include Kevin Macdonald’s legal thriller The Mauritanian, (with STX Films); Euros Lyn’s Dream Horse, (with Bleecker Street); and Pablo Larraìn’s upcoming Spencer (with Neon). Topic Studios’ television projects include Love Fraud, and the Emmy Award® winning 16 Shots, both on Showtime; and the upcoming surfing documentary series, 100 Foot Wave on HBO/HBO Max. Recent podcasts from Topic Studios include: Somebody (iHeartRadio), with The Intercept & Invisible Institute; Impostors: The Spy, A Spotify Original from Parcast; the Audible Original The Messenger, now on Audible Plus; Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu (with WarnerMedia Podcast Network); Anthem (with Luminary) from John Cameron Mitchell, featuring Glenn Close, Cynthia Erivo and Patti LuPone; and the critically acclaimed Missing Richard Simmons; the Peabody®-nominated Headlong: Running from COPS and Headlong: Surviving Y2K, created and hosted by Dan Taberski.