The journalism major and Fred Clasen-Kelly investigated why Mecklenburg County, which has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the nation, did not offer an available drug that could stop the spread of the virus.
While Emmanuel Morgan ’19 is still a few months from his Elon graduation, the senior recently collected his first professional journalism award.
During the North Carolina Press Association’s annual awards ceremony, held March 21 in Raleigh, Morgan and Fred Clasen-Kelly were recognized for their co-authored article published in the Charlotte Observer titled “This pill prevents HIV, saves lives. Here’s why Mecklenburg doesn’t offer it.” The November 2017 article captured first place in the competition’s County Government Reporting category for daily newspapers over 35,000 circulation.
As part of their reporting, Clasen-Kelly and Morgan investigated why Mecklenburg County, which owns one of the highest HIV infection rates in the nation, did not offer an accessible drug that can stop the spread of the infectious virus. The reporters examined the circumstances behind why the drug was not reaching individuals most at risk despite county commissioners agreeing to pay to expand its use.
According to Morgan, the story’s topic piqued his editor’s interest following the resignation of the county’s health director amid a slew of controversies. And it was Clasen-Kelly who called attention to the region’s high HIV rate, which was not widely publicized.
Morgan said he immediately volunteered to assist with the article’s reporting, working on the investigation throughout his summer 2017 internship.
“That was the first time I worked on a true investigative story,” Morgan said.
As part of the investigation, Morgan drove across Charlotte interviewing sources, contacted numerous health and LGBT advocates and experts, and examined national HIV rate data and the county’s budget.
“Fred was invaluable in that experience because he helped me step-by-step in the process,” Morgan said. “He helped me file my first FOIA, and helped me prepare strong questions for the county commissioners to hold them accountable.”
At the conclusion of Morgan’s internship in August, Clasen-Kelly continued their joint reporting and the final article – with Morgan’s name in the byline – was published the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Morgan credits his experience at the Charlotte Observer with teaching him how to navigate a professional newsroom.
“Watching how professionals handle themselves on a day-to-day basis, both in their mannerisms and how they go about their work, was great to see and I’ve tried to emulate it,” Morgan said.
Following graduation, Morgan will complete a sports reporting internship with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In summer 2018, the former Elon News Network executive director served as a News21 Fellow and joined a national investigation to examine the growing climate of hate in the United States.
In addition to his award-winning HIV rates article, Clasen-Kelly captured first place for a shared byline in the News Enterprise Reporting category. In total, the Charlotte Observer won 35 awards in the N.C. Press Association competition, including 17 first-place awards.