Professor’s ‘Prison Town’ podcast nominated for Peabody Award

Prison Town podcast logo

MACON — Mercer University Assistant Professor of Practice in Journalism Evey Wilson Wetherbee’s podcast “Prison Town” was nominated for the prestigious Peabody Award honoring “excellence in storytelling that reflects the social issues and the emerging voices of our day.”

With reporting partner Jessica Szilagyi, editor of The Georgia Virtue, “Prison Town” explores systemic issues within the Georgia Department of Corrections by linking murders on the outside of prison back to an inmate inside of Smith State Prison in Tattnall County. 

Wetherbee said she was thrilled to be included in this year’s Peabody nominations. 

“It really is a life goal of mine,” she said. “Jessica and I worked diligently on this investigation and on this project. I hope that this nomination helps lead more people to our reporting. Our prison system needs a lot of attention and I think it’s many people’s inclination to look away. But, I hope with our reporting that people can learn about the issues and hopefully people with power can work toward solving them.”

Wetherbee and Szilagyi spent the better part of two years reporting for the six-part series. 

From left, Evey Wilson Wetherbee, assistant professor of practice in Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism, and Jessica Szilagyi report the “Prison Town” podcast. Photo courtesy Evey Wilson Wetherbee

“We worked really hard to create a podcast that would not only inspire people to advocate for changes in a broken system but also spotlight how these ongoing issues leave no demographic of people untouched. I think Prison Town’s success and this nomination demonstrate that other people see that too,” said Szilagyi. 

Debbie Blankenship, assistant professor of practice in journalism and director of the Reg Murphy Center for Collaborative Journalism, assisted with the first round of edits on the “Prison Town” episodes and said the nomination brings much-needed awareness to the crucial reporting work Wetherbee and Szilagyi provided around systemic issues in Georgia’s prison system.

“I am thrilled to see Evey’s hard work gain the recognition it deserves. Evey spent hundreds of hours on this series while still juggling her other classroom work and responsibilities,” said Blankenship.

The Peabody nominees represent the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and streaming media during 2023. They were chosen from more than 1,100 entries from television, podcasts/radio and web/digital in entertainment, news, documentary, arts, children’s/youth, public service and interactive programming.

The final winners from all categories will be announced on May 9, and the awards presentation ceremony will take place on June 9 in Los Angeles. 

The entire season of “Prison Town” is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other major podcasting apps, as well as the “Prison Town” website.