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2020 VPM Murrows Award Entry: Breaking News

tear gas
Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News

After four nights of racial justice protests in Richmond, residents - and reporters - thought they knew the drill. Before curfew, chants and cookouts; after curfew, fires, tear gas, and street clashes.

That changed June 1, when police launched CS gas canisters into a group they’d later describe as “peaceful,” 20 minutes before curfew was set to begin. VPM provided breaking news that was carried by regional and national outlets, and pushed officials to take action and provide transparent answers.


The entire VPM News team was involved throughout the tumultuous 24 hour period following the tear gassing. We followed this story from start to finish, and earned recognition from our audience and journalistic peers for an approach that combined our traditional in-depth coverage with breaking news reporting.

Night of Coverage

Digital: Police Tear Gas, Charge Crowd Before Curfew Begins
Reporter Whittney Evans and photojournalist Crixell Matthews were reporting from the field, but recalled after police launched tear gas due to safety concerns. Matthews’ photos would be used that night, and Evans’ audio for morning newscasts, as part of our breaking coverage.

Wendy Goodman Humble, who is related to an employee and lives near the monument, shot video from the scene which was edited by reporter Alan Rodriguez Espinoza. The digital news editor, David Streever, wrote a breaking news article and live Tweets as events unfolded. The video would be shared with CBS 6, national NPR, and other regional and national outlets and reach hundreds of thousands of people on VPM’s platform alone.

Audio: Evans_TearGasFinal_0602
Catherine Komp, VPM’s features editor, worked with Evans on broadcast stories for the morning newscast, edited by Sara McCloskey, our newscast editor. Using natural sound and interviews, Evans produced a powerful spot that added additional context and prepared listeners for follow-up reporting which would be done in the same 24-hour period that began with the tear gassing. 

Follow-up Coverage

Digital/Audio: Protesters Demand Action After Police Attack Peaceful Demonstrators
The afternoon after the tear gassing, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney met with the public in front of City Hall. VPM reporter Yasmine Jumaa and photojournalist Crixell Matthews captured the speeches and debates, and turned in a fast digital story and broadcast material that ran during our newscast.

Digital/Audio: Mayor Stoney Marched in 5th Night of Protests After Critics Demanded Answers on Police Violence
Less than 24-hours after the tear gas incident, and facing calls for his resignation, Stoney marched with protesters. It was his first march since racial justice protests over the killing of George Floyd began. Although some decried the march as a publicity stunt, others took it as a sign that the mayor had heard residents demands, and was going to be accountable for police conduct. Ben Paviour reported this story, with contributions from Craig Carper and Yasmine Jumaa, and Crixell Matthews as photographer.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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