The Diederich College of Communication and the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism welcome Meribah Knight, Reporter/Producer of Special Projects and Public Radio's WPLN News and Ken Armstrong, Reporter for ProPublica to discuss their award-winning investigation into police officers arresting four Black girls at an elementary school in Murfreesboro, Nashville

"Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn't Exist"

The children were arrested for a crime that does not exist, in an investigation led by a police officer who had been disciplined 37 times, on charges approved by judicial commissioners without law degrees, in a system overseen by a judge who failed the bar exam four times, in a county where the policy for detaining kids violated Tennessee law but that state inspectors didn’t stop year after year. The reporters also discovered that Rutherford County jailed kids in 48% of the cases.

Event Details

  • Thursday, October 13, 4:00. For details or information about the recording, please reach out to


Join us for an interactive discussion with the reporters along with time for Q&A from the audience.


About the presenters

Ken Armstrong

Ken Armstrong

Ken Armstrong is a reporter at ProPublica, a non-profit news organization dedicated to investigative journalism. With Meribah Knight, he wrote about a Tennessee county where hundreds of children were illegally arrested and jailed. With Christian Sheckler, he wrote about an Indiana city where nearly every police supervisor had a disciplinary record. Their reporting led to criminal charges against two officers and the police chief’s resignation. 

  Previously, at the Marshall Project, Armstrong’s work appeared in the Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Paris Review. For his collaboration with ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller, about a woman charged with lying about being raped, Armstrong won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. That story also became a This American Life episode, a book and an eight-part Netflix series, “Unbelievable.”  

At the Seattle Times, Armstrong won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for a series with Michael Berens that showed how the state of Washington steered Medicaid patients and others to a cheap but unpredictable painkiller linked to more than 2,000 deaths. He also shared in two staff Pulitzers for breaking news: one for coverage of a landslide that killed 43 people, the other for coverage of the shooting deaths of four police officers.  

Armstrong earlier worked for the Chicago Tribune, where his reporting with Steve Mills helped prompt the Illinois governor to suspend executions and empty death row. He’s been honored with six Investigative Reporters and Editors awards, a Peabody Award for radio and the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University for lifetime achievement. His book with Nick Perry, “Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity,” won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for nonfiction. Armstrong, a graduate of Purdue University, has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton. 

 Meribah Knight

Meribah Knight
Meribah Knight is a senior reporter and producer at Nashville Public Radio and creator of the Peabody Award-winning podcast, The Promise, an immersive series from Nashville Public Radio about inequality and the people trying to rise above it. Her reporting on race and inequality in public schools prompted a wholesale shift in enrollment and attitudes toward school choice in one Nashville neighborhood. And her reporting on the juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tenn., was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the Goldsmith Award, and a National Magazine Award.

She is currently a fellow in ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.

Her writing has appeared The New York Times and The New Yorker. Her radio and multimedia work has been featured on NPR and The PBS News Hour.

A native of Cambridge, Mass., Meribah has a Masters of Journalism from Northwestern University and a BA from New York University. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a photojournalist with the Tennessean, their toddler son and the family’s five cats.

About the Burleigh Media Ethics Lecture

The annual Burleigh Media Ethics Lecture addresses topical and moral issues facing the world today. Sponsored annually by the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, the lecture honors William R. Burleigh, a 1957 Marquette journalism graduate, who started working for the Evansville, Ind. Press at age 14 as a sports reporter. He retired in 2000 as president and CEO of the E.W. Scripps Company, having led the transformation of Scripps from primarily a newspaper enterprise into a media company with interest in cable and broadcast television, newspaper publishing, e-commerce, interactive media, licensing and syndication. Burleigh lectures address ethical issues today's communicators report on, as well as those they wrestle with in their own work.