June 11, 2021

“No Compromise,” an NPR podcast that dove into the shifting sands of Second Amendment activism, won the second-ever Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting. Hosts Lisa Hagan and Chris Haxel along with producer Graham Smith and editor Robert Little shared in the recognition of their work.

This is the first-ever Pulitzer win for NPR. “This American Life” took home the inaugural audio prize last year for an episode about the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. Rather than focus on a single episode, this year’s award recognized two podcasts and a news team’s coverage for the overall breadth of their work.

“No Compromise” centers on a group of Iowa-based gun rights activists, the Dorr brothers, who (as the podcast tagline states), “are on a mission to reconstruct America using two tools — guns and Facebook.” It looks at how the brothers have used social media to build a network of “no compromise” gun groups with the aim of either opposing or eliminating all regulations on gun ownership in America.

It also examines how this advocacy is reaching beyond the gun debate to a larger fight about American culture. In the first episode, which starts at a Pennsylvania anti-lockdown protest, the Dorrs explain their advocacy is about “freedom.” The podcast chronicles their maximalist worldview, and how on occasion it has caused them to butt heads with gun-rights activists who’d otherwise be on their side.

Both Hagen and Haxel are no strangers to the gun debate. Haxel is a U.S. Army veteran and Hagen told NPR host Sarah McCammon in an October 2020 making-of podcast her father introduced her to firearms when she was 6 years old.

“It was just so I could be a well-rounded person in his eyes,” Hagen said. She noted though that gun culture has changed drastically since then, and the podcast aimed to address some of the questions about why that is.

The podcast was produced as part of the Guns & America media collaboration. The two-year grant-funded initiative brought together journalists from 10 public radio member stations to produce stories about guns, gun culture, legislation and the larger implications for American society.

It’s also the result of NPR’s effort to create more collaborative projects with its member stations. KQED’s recently launched podcast, “On Our Watch,” which delved into police misconduct records in California, is another example of this collaboration.

Haxel said the Pulitzer recognition is an affirmation of the importance of these kinds of deep, long-form storytelling projects, especially given the associated costs.

“It costs a lot of money to let a reporter work on one story for several months or a year,” Haxel said. “So it’s good to see that the decisions my editors made, and many people above me, in leadership positions made paid off.”

NPR’s broader reporting team also earned finalist recognition for its on-the-ground reporting of the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The team was credited for its work reporting on the global implications of Soleimani’s death.

The staff of the Intercept, Topic Studios, and the Chicago-based journalism production company the Invisible Institute were also recognized for their investigative podcast “Somebody.” The team partnered with Chicago mother Shapearl Wells who’s son Courtney was found dead on the steps of a Chicago police station. The project was recognized for its examination of the institutional failures impeding justice for Ms. Wells’ son.

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Harrison Mantas is a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network covering the wide world of misinformation. He previously worked in Arizona and Washington D.C. for…
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