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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 exposing injustices and bringing attention to pressing issues.
  • Dig deep into documents and data and build vast networks of sources to find and deliver stories with real impact.
  • Wrote a story co-published by The Guardian that directly resulted in Alabama restoring the voting rights of tens of thousands of largely black, poor citizens who were being improperly denied the franchise, thousands of whom cast ballots in the hotly contested 2017 U.S. Senate special election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones.
  • Revealed the severe level of understaffing at one of Alabama's most violent prisons. This reporting played a key role in spurring the state to implement initiatives aimed at increasing staffing levels in its overcrowded prisons.
  • Exposed that the University of Alabama uses "dark money" to make contributions to politicians and influence state and federal politics, and showed exactly how it does so in the first report on a U.S. university deploying such a scheme.
  • Broke the story of Harper Lee's death, relying on deep sourcing in her hometown to report the news before any other media outlet.
  • Served as an integral member of a small team that led the reporting that eventually drove Gov. Robert Bentley to resign in disgrace. Revealed that Bentley had used disposable "burner" phones to communicate and made questionable payments from state and campaign accounts.
  • Collaborate with AL.com's video team to produce and co-produce compelling video projects on a diverse range of topics including Alabama's transgender community and prisoners voting and an underground motorcycle club.

 

International Business Times / Newsweek, 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 2013, from enterprise stories for the print magazine to breaking news 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 in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.
  • Ran IBTimes.com's traffic and trends desk from June 2012 to January 2013, managing a team of reporters and mastering the art of producing engaging, important content that reaches a wide audience and generates significant traffic.
  • Often drove more monthly traffic to IBTimes.com than any other reporter.
  • Personally brought more than 1.2 million unique daily visitors to IBTimes.com 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.


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

Justice Reporting Fellowship - John Jay College of Criminal Justice
April 2018 to March 2019.

  • Will spend a year reporting from Alabama on the phenomenon of prisoners being locked away in solitary confinement for periods of months as retaliation for speaking with journalists, publishing critical articles and otherwise speaking out.
  • Will publish multiple articles about this important topic over the course of this year-long fellowship.

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

  • One of eight media professionals selected from 396 applicants for this fellowship awarded by the University of Missouri's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
  • Created the Deputy Program, an open-source initiative aimed at spurring community engagement, fostering conversations and providing newsrooms with techniques to recognize, train and engage ordinary citizens to pitch stories and concepts that are important to their communities.
  • 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 and engagement engine.
  • The Deputy Program was selected as Editor & Publisher magazine's April 2018 Innovation of the Month and has been profiled by publications including the American Press Institute and the Poynter Institute.

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.