They then listened to the dealer/informant explain the previous seven years of his life, which revealed a world of police corruption that took place largely in a destitute area of the city.
For more than a year, Wendy and Barbara followed up on the information, digging through public records and interviewing countless numbers of people - including drug dealers and prostitutes. They discovered that police had allegedly fabricated evidence, robbed neighborhood grocery stores and sexually assaulted women. Under the series label "Tainted Justice," they did numerous stories over 14 months, detailing the unsavory actions of the people expected to keep the public safe.
"The first phase of the series was not popular at all," Barbara said.
The police were in an uproar and the Fraternal Order of Police held a press conference denouncing the series. Off-duty cops appeared near the Daily News office making threats. A lawyer representing one specific officer threatened to sue both of the reporters individually, as well as the newspaper.
"That made me mad," Wendy said. "I have a little bit of a temper, like a chihuahua."
"We were more scared of the police than the drug dealers," Barbara continued.
The series of stories won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Wendy and Barbara took their experiences and turned them into a brand new book, "Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal In The City of Brotherly Love."
Here are a few things they said in class that stood out to me:
- When Barbara walked around Kensington interviewing people, the dealers assumed she was there to buy drugs. "I'm too geeky," Wendy said. "Nobody tried to sell me drugs."
- Barbara was slap-punched by a woman while she was reporting the story. Despite the melee, she was able to crawl on the ground and retrieve her notebook full of quotes and information.
- As a reporter, your reputation is all you have. You need a good reputation to earn people's trust.
- Once they learned what Wendy and Barbara were doing, the drug dealers started looking after Wendy and Barbara.
- Shortly after they broke the story, the Inquirer tried to catch on to the story as well. They assigned five reporters to dig through information.
- In the book, they present themselves in a very revealing fashion. "We decided to put ourselves in there, including the foibles and failures," Barbara said.
- There are anecdotes about their love lives, friends, co-workers and children.
- "I really am a train wreck of a parent," Wendy added with a laugh. During the gathering process for the story, she said her then-husband did most of the parenting.
- "I don't like to do stories about politics or famous people or rich people," Barbara said. Instead, she prefers stories where people with no voice have been wronged by people in power. Wendy agreed, saying, "We can use our words to affect change."
- Wendy's name first appeared in a newspaper after she was busted for underage drinking.
- "We don't know how to make money," Wendy said of the newspaper business. "People find stuff on Google, Twitter and Facebook ... but that news is being generated by journalists."
- "It's a great time for you guys," Barbara told the class, explaining that news organizations like young people whom they can hire at lower salaries, who will work very hard.
- Get an internship and start getting experience and making connections.
What stood out for you?