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This was the first investigative piece I ever did, and something I worked on for over a year. It first began when I covered an event for The Daily. During it, someone spoke who, I could tell, had a much larger story at hand. Before the speaker left, I decided to approach him, asking if I could follow up later. This also became a class assignment for my sophomore year at the UW. After making a trip to Harborview’s Psychiatric Ward, going through hundreds of paperwork and files and records, getting signed permission from an inmate, working with an incredibly difficult PIO, and having Jail Health Service’s director shred the original medical grievance I asked for, I wrote the story. The experience and the result expanded well over anything I could’ve possibly predicted, and became far more than just a class assignment. I wasn’t even in that class anymore by the time I was only halfway through the work. It won SPJ’s runner-up award for Best in Health & Science Reporting this year.
For this story, Jennifer Fuentes contacted me after she witnessed protectors’ and protesters’ arrests at the Dakota Access Pipeline. One of those protesters was a man from Seattle. I then talked with the man, Bob Barnes, after he was released. To fact check everything, I contacted the police department who arrested him. His name was on file, under William Barnes. They initially told me nobody from Seattle was arrested, but upon checking again at my request, found they made an error. I was additionally the first, to my knowledge, to discover and publish that the department used a stingray on protectors. Moreover, I investigated a scare about a plane that had released something in the air near the camp.
The woman in this photo is Ronda Althaus, a single homeless mother. I went to Othello Village, a homeless encampment in the South End, for multiple days to gain the trust of its residents, but also to understand the environment and how everything worked. Initially, I was to interview a different woman who had quite the story, but her husband decided he didn’t want her talking to the media. After my third trip to Othello, Ronda came forward and told me she wanted to tell her story, that it was time. Three hours and multiple cries later, our interview was finished. It was heavy, it was raw, and it was real. After the piece published, I visited the village again. Ronda told me her family saw the piece and began talking to her again. They better understood her situation. This time, she cried tears of joy. I made sure our photographer stopped by to give her the family photos he had taken as well. This story was a part of the #SeaHomeless media blitz across Seattle, highlighting the issues and the people of homelessness across multiple outlets.
This story came after a slew of constant UW shooting coverage I did. A Milo Yiannopoulos supporter shot a black bloc anarchist protester on campus. Throughout my coverage, I uncovered facts no other outlet did (and that The Seattle Times even got wrong): one of the suspects was a UW student, the victim was not a supporter, and anarchists aren’t always violent. I was willing to correct the stigmas I, too, had formed. And, due to my diligence, people began reaching out to me. They still do to this day. I had readers who would contact me the moment something happened, people who would stand by my reporting when an officer convinced our university paper’s editor to take down my proven-correct piece. Through my coverage, I gained the victim’s, his partner’s, and their family’s trust — something other reporters didn’t achieve, or even disregarded. This story was a result of that trust. So were the stories to follow.
This was the third piece I did on the mistreatment of Amazon’s subcontracted SIS workers. The first article included how a previous cop, now working as a security officer on Amazon HQ, asked for a place to pray, was arbitrarily put on leave, and underwent so much stress that he and his wife lost their baby. The second piece explained how an attempt to meet with CEO Jeff Bezos was left with silence and intimidation tactics. This piece explains how outspoken workers are now out of their jobs. I’m hoping something gets done about this, these pieces need to get notice, and something needs to change. I’ve been posting it everywhere, but amidst Charleena Lyles’ death by SPD, it’s difficult. I’ll keep pushing, though.
I still cherish this piece because it was one of the first and, still, rare times I got to use my creative writing voice. And it was noticed by the YAMS Collective, who then pushed it out across their social media and online networks. The content of the art show itself was, and still is, so incredibly important. I do hope I get to do more pieces like it.
Last summer, I interned with and reported for South Seattle Emerald and KCTS9′s What’s Good 206 simultaneously. Before that, during the winter of 2016, I was a legislative intern and reporter at The Seattle Times. I’m currently freelancing around multiple Seattle outlets, as I’ve done for the past two or three years, until I find a full-time job as a reporter (hopefully).