T. Christian Miller is a veteran reporter who covered the 2000 presidential campaign and served as a bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. His career also includes stints with the San Francisco Chronicle and the St. Petersburg Times. He has won numerous awards for his reporting; he will be presented with another next month at EVAWI's International conference in Orlando, FL.
EVAWI: First, congratulations on the Media Excellence Award you'll receive next month in Orlando at the End Violence Against Women International conference. Reporters don't do what they do with an eye on winning awards, but what does this group's recognition mean to you?
Miller: I’m thrilled to have been honored with this award. EVAWI was an incredibly important resource to me and my colleague, Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project, during the reporting on our investigation, An Unbelievable Story of Rape. I counted on Joanne Archambault, Kimberly A. Lonsway and others to provide fact-based perspectives on the topic of sexual assault. To me, the award is recognition that we were able to successfully share their knowledge with a wide audience of the general public.
EVAWI: You'll be presenting to the entire group of attendees -- probably 2,000-plus -- on the first morning of the conference. Without giving away the farm, can you give us an idea of what you'll be talking about?
Miller: Sexual assault is an incredibly complex topic. The media face challenges in accurately and compassionately reporting on it. I hope to share with the audience an insider’s look at how we reported and wrote our story. I also want to examine the role that the media play in helping to maintain – and dispel – the stigma that surrounds the issue.
EVAWI: You worked on the story of Darren Sharper, the former NFL star who last year was sentenced to 18 years in prison for a series of rapes. What was the one aspect of your reporting that surprised you the most about that case?
Miller: The Darren Sharper case actually launched a broader inquiry into how the police investigate rape. Sharper pled guilty to committing a number of rapes in a number of different jurisdictions. When I began examining those cases, I was surprised at how detectives in some jurisdictions had missed obvious connections that might have been able to put an end to his predatory behavior sooner. That discovery led to our story on the hunt for serial rapist Marc O’Leary – a case filled with examples of both good and bad police work.
EVAWI: ProPublica -- and you, personally -- have developed reputations for not being afraid to dig into difficult stories. That seems rare in journalism these days. How did this develop for you and your company?
Miller: ProPublica is a non-profit investigative news organization that collaborates with other media to do stories with moral force. To execute this piece, ProPublica joined hands with The Marshall Project, an investigative non-profit devoted to criminal justice issues. Both of our organizations have a strong commitment to doing powerful, complex stories. This work is not always possible at traditional media outlets, which have been squeezed by economic pressures. Both our groups have been lucky to count on donors who recognize the importance of in-depth and independent reporting.
EVAWI: Is there a story you haven't worked on yet that you'd give anything to tackle?
Miller: This is an interesting question. Most of us are familiar with non-profits and journalistic organizations that tackle cold cases involving murder, sometimes solving cases that occurred years prior. I have wondered whether a similar initiative might be possible for cases involving sexual assault. It’s something that I am certainly open to exploring.
If you would like to hear Mr. Miller speak, join us on April 18, 2017 at the International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Systems Change! You can register at www.evawintl.org.
Dave Cohen, EVAWI Associate Board Member