Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker visited NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute on March 10 to discuss the story of their book, “Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love,” which launches today.
Ruderman and Laker spoke about both the journalistic and personal journey they took to expose the corruption in Philadelphia.
Steinhardt junior Lu Mavern said he looked up to the speakers as inspiration for his future career.
“I’m kind of on the fence about my major, and by that I mean I have no idea what I want to be,” Mavern said. “I don’t want to be in an office all day. These women exposed a huge city’s corruption by telling stories. I want to hear from them what it’s really like, and maybe follow in their footsteps.”
As reporters at the Philadelphia Daily News, Ruderman and Laker were approached by a drug informant who feared for his life. From there, they uncovered more stories, including sexual assault of innocent women by police officers during raids, fabricated search warrants and video evidence of police officers raiding and stealing from local bodegas.
Ruderman said she and Laker were unpopular when their stories were first published, and the police even had press conferences and a website against the reporters.
“We were scared [the police] would follow us home,” Ruderman said. “They actually called us the ‘Slime Girls.’ But we didn’t care, we kind of liked it. We made it our own and kept going.”
Laker discussed the most impactful moment of uncovering the abuse.
“One of the most powerful moments of the experience was finding the three women who had been assaulted,” Laker said. “The second woman who we were able to track down [was told that] there was a reporter outside who wanted to ask her what happened at the raid. She had tears rolling down her face and hugged me and said, ‘I’ve been praying for this day for a long time.’”
The audience gasped, booed and cheered along with the two women as they told their stories. Vanessa Dayner, a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, said she looks to emulate Laker and Ruderman.
“I really [look up to] both of these women,” Dayner said. “They were publicly ridiculed, slapped around, threatened, they beat on doors of drug dealers, they stuck to their gut. They got dirty. Then they go up on stage and control the room with class and humor. I want to be like that.”
Over 100 people attended the event, including Laker’s family, students and members of the general public.
After the event the pair signed and sold copies of their book which is for sale everywhere today.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 11 print edition. Cassandra Cassillas is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]