Eric Boodman receives New America Award for coverage of a Haitian hospital worker’s COVID-19 death
Lou Harry, SPJ Manager of Publications and Awards, 317-920-4786, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashlynn Neumeyer, Communications Coordinator, 317-361-4133, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to award Eric Boodman with the 2020 New America Award for his STAT article, “In the Covid-19 death of a hospital food worker, a microcosm of the pandemic.”
The story about Marie Deus, the first worker from Brigham Health to die of COVID-19, explores the history of Haitians in Boston and the racism and economic insecurity driving infections nationwide.
To better understand the social forces involved, Boodman explored anthropology texts about the Haitian diaspora, consulted three competing historians’ visions of the population shift in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood and read through newspaper archives to understand how the narratives spun decades ago fit with the facts in retrospect. Professors, community organizers and pastors were also interviewed.
“I had no idea I’d end up delving into the statistics of health worker infections, or the troubled political history of Haiti, or the cramped housing of the city’s newest immigrants, or the racist policy that determined who could live in which neighborhoods,” Boodman wrote in the submission letter. “But all of that shaped the story of Marie Deus, and so it shaped my story, too.”
Boodman took part in occupational health meetings at the 74,000-employee hospital system, where every single COVID-19-positive employee was analyzed and each person’s contacts traced, so he could witness exactly how the data was processed. That meant pushing for statistics broken down both by occupation and by neighborhood of residence to double-check the numbers and not take executives at their word. It also meant drawing on relationships of trust carefully established over the course of months.
“While sensitively telling the story of Marie Deus’ illness and life, Boodman also captured so much more, including the immigrant experience in the broad sense and the associated ingrained inequalities,” judges said. “Boodman did an extraordinary job getting access to information and decisions, doing research, distilling data into meaningful findings, understanding a community within a city and earning the trust of a grieving family.”
The New America Award is celebrating 17 years of honoring work focused on immigrant or ethnic communities. This year’s recipient is scheduled to be honored at the SPJ President’s Installation Banquet during the SPJ21 convention in September. Read more about the New America Award, including past recipients.
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