The Amsterdam News’ Blacklight investigative unit is now the Amsterdam News’ award-winning Blacklight investigative unit. The New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ) crowned the desk’s “SUFFER THE CHILDREN: COVID’s impact on New York’s youngest” story with this year’s Ed Bradley Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting.
Reported by freelance writer Taayoo Murray, the piece explores the lives of Black youth after the loss of a parent to COVID-19. Beyond the tragedies they endured, the youngsters also shared the difficulties of navigating the limited social services available to them and solutions that actually exist to address their grief and allow them to heal. The full story can be read here.
The story is personal for Murray—it came to her after her stepbrother lost his wife earlier in the pandemic. She left behind three children.
“I didn’t want to interview my own family for the piece,” said Murray. “I don’t think that they would have opened up to me the way other families would have.”
Along came the Fletcher family, whose patriarch Trevor also died at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They became central figures in Murray’s piece as the children navigated school, home, and the general difficulties of growing up after losing their father. Murray soon got in contact with Amsterdam News investigative editor Damaso Reyes and the newspaper published the piece last September. Murray is still battling with a bout of imposter syndrome.
“[Reyes] emailed me asking permission to submit the articles [for award] entry,” said Murray. “I was like, ‘Sure, go right ahead.’ I didn’t know anything about the award. I didn’t know what the criteria were. What’s the worst thing that can happen? [Then Reyes] emailed me to say that the article was a finalist.
“We moved to a different level of the competition, so that’s good. Okay—if somebody reviewed the piece and thought it was good enough, I’m happy about that.”
It wasn’t until Murray reviewed the other amazing work also in the running for the award that she fully understood her piece was “really something worthy.”
Her award-winning career as a freelance health writer started unconventionally as a result of reading up on a liver transplant her brother was undergoing in 2018. Back in high school, Murray didn’t even know there were paid writing gigs. The Jamaican-born New Yorker discovered she was “a bit of a nerd” through researching the procedure and became engrossed in the medical world enough to write on it. The work allowed her to explain “hard science” concepts to her family that otherwise seemed unapproachable.
Murray and Reyes were honored at the NYABJ’s Black Excellence Awards, which were handed out during the organization’s 2nd Annual Juneteenth Gala this past Tuesday, June 20.
Past nominees include Joy Reid and Nikole Hannah-Jones. The distinction’s namesake, the late broadcaster Ed Bradley, was no stranger to journalism awards himself, bringing home a Peabody Award and countless Emmys in his illustrious career.