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Connor Sheets

Investigative Reporter

Experience

The Birmingham News / Reckon by AL.com, Investigative Reporter
Birmingham, Ala. - Jan. 2015-Present.

  • Produce investigations and enterprise pieces aimed at addressing public needs and bringing attention to pressing issues.
  • Report on a diverse range of issues, with particular focus on prisons, immigration and the LGBT community.
  • Dig deep into documents and data and build vast networks of sources to find and deliver stories with real impact.
  • Collaborate with Reckon's video and graphics team to produce compelling multimedia projects.
  • Broke the story of Harper Lee's death, relying on deep sourcing in her hometown to report the news well before any other media outlet.
  • Served as an integral member of a small team that led the reporting that eventually led Gov. Robert Bentley to resign in disgrace. My stories exposed that he used burner phones to communicate, made questionable payments from his state and campaign accounts, and had an unusual financial relationship with jet charter companies.
  • Exposed the severe level of understaffing at Alabama's death row prison, the fact that the University of Alabama uses "dark money" to influence state politics and exactly how it does so, and the fact that a private prisons corporation is creeping into Alabama despite being barred from running penitentiaries in the state.
  • Drive large amounts of web traffic to AL.com via expert use of SEO and social strategies.
  • Co-produced video projects on a diverse range of topics including underground motorcycle clubs, Alabama's transgender community and the 2016 presidential race.

 

International Business Times, Senior Reporter
New York, N.Y. - Oct. 2011-Jan. 2015.

  • Covered topics ranging from international affairs and New York news to culture and U.S. politics for the International Business Times.
  • Contributed a wide range of content to Newsweek beginning in September 2013, from enterprise stories for the print magazine to short pieces for Newsweek.com.
  • Wrote long-form features and investigative pieces for IBT Magazine as well as breaking news stories and all manner of web content for IBTimes.com.
  • Reported from countries on four contintents, from Nigeria to China.
  • Ran IBT's traffic and trends desk from June 2012 to January 2013, managing a team of reporters and mastering the art of generating massive web traffic while still producing engaging, important content.
  • Often drove more monthly traffic to IBTimes.com than any other reporter.
  • Personally attracted more than 1.2 million unique daily visitors to the site in March 2013, breaking the monthly record for a single reporter.
  • Wrote numerous exclusive investigative pieces, including one on alleged Hatch Act violations at the Cincinnati IRS office that spurred the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to launch an official investigation.
  • Reported on Hurricane Sandy, the 2013 New York City mayoral race, Tribeca Film Festival, Occupy Wall Street and more.


TimesLedger Newspapers, Staff Reporter
Queens, N.Y. - Oct. 2009-Oct. 2011

  • Covered Queens and New York City news, culture, crime and politics.
  • Published several exclusive investigations that led directly to action by politicians and developers.
  • Created niches covering the diverse immigrant communities of Queens and real estate and economic development in the borough, eventually becoming a leading voice on these topics.
  • Extensively covered the federal trials of terrorism suspects from Queens.
  • Won the New York Press Association's Writer of the Year award in April 2011 in recognition of my reporting work for TimesLedger Newspapers.

 

The Gazette, Staff Reporter
Frederick, Md. - Mar. 2008-Sept. 2009.

  • Covered key beats including Frederick County government, business and culture.
  • Exposed an energy company's plans to railroad community opposition to a $527 million incinerator proposal. The county later turned down the plan partly in response to public outrage fueled by my in-depth reporting.

 

Key Awards & Fellowships

Nonresidential Fellowship - Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute
Aug. 2016 to July 2017.

  • One of eight media professionals selected from 396 applicants for this prestigious fellowship awarded by the University of Missouri's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
  • Created the Deputy Program, an open-source project aimed at providing newsrooms with techniques to recognize, train and engage members of communities in pitching stories and concepts that are important to them.
  • Partnered with GroundSource to develop an SMS-based system that allows deputies to submit information to newsroom staff in an organized, efficient way.
  • Implemented the Deputy Program in the AL.com newsroom and developed it into a living, breathing information engine.
  • Recruited, trained and deployed a team of news "deputies" in Alabama. Produce and assign stories based on ideas they provide.

First Place, Investigative Reporting, Non-daily Category - Green Eyeshade Awards
June 2016.

  • Member of a three-person AL.com reporting team that received first-place honors for a months-long investigative series on Alabama's opiate addiction problem.
  • The Green Eyeshade Awards are awarded annually by the Society of Professional Journalists to recognize the best work done by journalists in the South.

Best Lifestyle Feature, Alabama Associated Press Media Editors awards
June 2016.

Fellowship on Immigrant Children and Education - The Institute for Justice & Journalism
March 2016.

  • Selected from a national pool for this journalism fellowship at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
  • Worked with fellowship leaders to hone a reporting project that matched human stories with Alabama's unique migration trends following the state's passage in 2011 of S.B. 56, at the time the nation's harshest anti-immigration law.

Exchange Program for Media Professionals from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and the United States - International Center for Journalists
Sept. 2013.

  • Spent two weeks embedded with newspapers in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria, writing for their daily editions and for International Business Times and Newsweek in the U.S.
  • Covered topics including the challenges facing LGBT Nigerians, the country's budding space program and the impacts of systemic governmental failures on residents of the Lagos slums.

Writer of the Year - New York Press Association
April 2011.

  • Selected for this first-place honor in New York Press Association's statewide Better Newspaper Contest.
  • More than 170 newspapers submitted a total of 2,634 entries in 60 categories.
  • Judge's quote: "His body of work speaks for itself -- journalism at its best."

Eagle Scout Award
Dec. 2001.


Education

University of Maryland
College Park, Md.

  • B.A. from Philip Merrill College of Journalism, 2007.