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2018 Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Small Newsroom finalist

Bundyville

About the Project

In 2014 Cliven Bundy and his sons led an armed standoff against the federal government in Nevada, and in 2016 the Bundys would lead another armed standoff after taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. On the surface, these standoffs appear to be ranchers fighting with the government over grazing laws and questions of land ownership, but “Bundyville” shows that there is so much more to the story: It examines questions of power and privilege in modern America, how unshakable fringe beliefs can overpower cold, clear fact, and how people will resort to acts of domestic terrorism over these beliefs.

Reporter Leah Sottile spent two years reporting on the Bundy family, attending court proceedings, spending time with Bundy supporters and critics, interviewing historians and anti-government extremism experts, and eventually convinced the Bundys to sit down for an interview with her. Her meticulous reporting resulted in a 30,000-word four-part series published alongside a seven-episode podcast produced in partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting. It’s been our most ambitious project we’ve ever produced.

Bundyville explains how one family pointed guns at government employees and then beat federal prosecutors twice in court. It explains how the Bundys became folk heroes among modern American reactionaries, armed militias, and conspiracy theorists who thrive in 4Chan forums and internet comment sections — those on the fringe who are easy to ignore online but need to be taken seriously when they organize in public and bring their weapons. The Bundys have attracted these supporters, they’re running for office, and they can’t be ignored.