NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year
Investigative Reporter, APM Reports, and Host and Lead Reporter of In the Dark
Shining the Light on Injustice through Journalism
Though Madeleine Baran was unsure of what she wanted to do early in her career, she always knew she wanted to write. “I really liked the strategy of investigative journalism,” says Baran. “How do you get people to talk to you and figure out what they’re actively trying to conceal from you?” Bringing much needed attention to buried issues is a challenge Baran unflinchingly embraces as an investigative reporter for APM Reports and the host of the award-winning podcast In the Dark. Her in-depth reporting has exposed some of the nation’s most egregious cases of corruption and helped bring long-overdue justice to victims.
And Baran’s journalism is holding powerful individuals and institutions accountable. In season two of In the Dark, she covered the case of Curtis Flowers, a Black man who was tried six times for the same crime and spent more than two decades behind bars. Her findings reached the U.S. Supreme Court and contributed to the overturning of Curtis’ conviction and his release from death row. “This was an opportunity to look at not only a prosecutor who repeatedly committed misconduct but also look at the larger problem of prosecutors’ unchecked power in this country,” says Baran. In 2013 and 2014, she spearheaded coverage that revealed decades of sexual abuse by members of the Archdiosese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Her investigation sent shockwaves throughout the Roman Catholic Church, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement for victims and the archdiocese’s bankruptcy.
Baran’s work has reverberated across the media field as well. The New York Times named In the Dark as one of “The Best New Podcasts of 2016,” lauding the show as a “virtuosic feat of reporting.” Since its debut, In the Dark has been downloaded by over 70 million listeners and claims the distinction as the first podcast to win a George Polk Award, one of investigative journalism’s highest honors. Baran herself has earned numerous accolades, including the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and three Peabody Awards.
But what Baran is most proud of is “shining the light in some very dark places and doing work that wouldn’t have been done without our team.” While her opinion remains open on the future of audio journalism, she views In the Dark as a unique medium for delivering investigative reporting to diverse audiences. It’s also encouraging listeners to be more politically active and even inspiring some to join the next wave of investigative journalism. “There’s this idea of who an investigative reporter is,” says Baran. “Hearing from people who are considering being journalists because of listening to the podcast— that’s really heartening.”