Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting received a Peabody Award on Tuesday for its series “The Pope’s Long Con,” documenting the life — and ultimate suicide — of former state Rep. Dan Johnson.

“This incredible podcast about a local politician known as ‘the Pope’ demonstrates the importance of checks and balances — and of dogged local journalism,” reads the Peabody description of the series. “Reporters R.G. Dunlop, Jacob Ryan, and Laura Ellis worked for seven months to investigate the extravagant claims of church leader and state representative Dan Johnson whose glorified past was akin to Forrest Gump.”

Just three days after the report on Johnson’s long history of dubious claims and an allegation of sexual assault — and one day after he disputed its accuracy in a news conference at his church — Johnson took his own life.

“I’m so proud of our team at KyCIR and WFPL News, who put in long hours and made personal and professional sacrifices over the course of an intense seven-month investigation to bring this important work to the public,” stated Stephen George, interim president of Louisville Public Media. “This award gives national recognition to the power and necessity of local reporting at a time when journalism everywhere is under threat. As a nonprofit newsroom, we’re fortunate to have a community in Louisville that provides a strong backbone for this work.”

The series was one of five winners in Peabody’s “radio/podcast” category for 2017, out of 1,200 broadcast entries.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]