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Illustration by Brian Britigan.

This week’s episode: Fancy galleries, fake art

In the mid-’90s, two high-end New York art galleries began selling one fake painting after another – works in the style of Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and others. It was the largest art fraud in modern U.S. history, totaling more than $80 million.

One of the Kentucky State Police slides featuring a quote from Adolf Hitler at the bottom.

Meet the 16-year-old journalist who exposed Nazi quotes in a Kentucky sheriff’s training

On Oct. 30, the student news site of duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Kentucky, published a bombshell of an investigation: While training officers, the Kentucky State Police had used a slideshow that quoted Adolf Hitler. The reporters behind the story were 16-year-old Satchel Walton and his younger brother Cooper. On the day the student site published the story, Satchel decided to quiet his nerves by going to play cards with a friend in a park. But soon, his phone rang: The governor’s office was calling and wanted to offer a comment. 

The brothers first learned about the slideshow from their dad, an attorney who was working on a case representing someone who had been shot by a police officer in eastern Kentucky. The legal team gathered the training slides that featured quotes from Hitler and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as part of the discovery in that case. When he saw the slides, Satchel immediately knew it was an important story. 

“I thought that it needed to be out there and it needed to be out there quick. And so I said, ‘I can do that,’ ” says Satchel, speaking over Zoom from his family’s attic. “Louisville's been the center of protests about racial justice after Breonna Taylor was killed in March. My thought was this was related to police training, the key part of which was that they were too aggressive and that they were racist in quoting Hitler and Lee.” 

The brothers worked with a student editor and journalism teacher to report the story over two weeks. The hardest part was getting a response from the Kentucky State Police. That took “lots and lots of phone calls and emails” to get a comment, Satchel says. The Kentucky State Police said that the quotes were included for their “content and relevance” and that the slideshow had not been used since 2013. 

After the Waltons’ reporting gained international attention, the Kentucky State Police commissioner resigned. The governor’s office also launched a review of all State Police training materials. 

For his next story, Satchel got some assistance from Reveal’s To Protect and Slur Reporting Network, which documents law enforcement officers who are members of extremist groups on Facebook. Satchel’s new report, published this week, shows how a Kentucky law enforcement training video used this year features a Nazi symbol in a clip from an anti-Semitic video produced by a neo-Nazi media company. To help with his reporting, Reveal shared information with Satchel about specific Kentucky officers who have been involved with extremist groups online. “We could use that information to demonstrate that it's not just something that happens behind closed doors,” Satchel says.  

Satchel’s not sure whether he’ll go into a career in journalism – he has other interests, such as helping organize action around the climate crisis. But reporting these stories has felt important. 

“I'm certainly dedicated to reporting the truth, to getting important information out to people,” Satchel says. “I also think having (President Donald) Trump, from when I was in sixth grade to now, talking about the ‘fake news media’ inspired me a bit to prove him wrong.”

Support Our Work


In the Field 

Supporting local journalism with Reveal’s Reporting Networks 

A lot of local newsrooms around the country are the media equivalent of a one-person band. One or two people play multiple roles as reporter, editor, copy editor and art director while hustling to cover as much of the news as they can. And newsrooms are getting smaller: Since 2008, newsrooms around the country have cut 27,000 jobs. Taking on big, in-depth investigations often isn’t possible for many local reporters. 

Two years ago, Reveal started our reporting networks as a way to support those local newsrooms. The traditional approach in journalism is for reporters to keep their information exclusive so they can beat out the competition. The reporting networks do something radical: share the data and documents from Reveal’s biggest investigations with other media outlets. The networks can include anyone from student reporters like Satchel Walton (above) to veteran reporters at newspapers, radio outlets and TV stations. 

Reveal now has seven reporting networks focusing on extremism in police departments, rape investigations, the 2020 census, Amazon injury rates, concussions in school sports, U visas for immigrants and work-based rehabs. 

Reporters who sign up for the free networks get access to details from Reveal’s big investigations, so they can explore the issues in their own local areas. Reporters also get free professional support and training from Reveal on how to report on specific topics Reveal has investigated. For example, after digging up data on Amazon’s warehouse injury rates for a story about how the company hid its safety crisis, the Behind the Smiles Reporting Network made all that data available to reporters around the country. The Detroit Metro Times and the Cleveland Scene both used that data recently to write about Amazon warehouse workers in the Midwest. Sharing this information helps create more of an impact for Reveal’s reporting, which is far more important than delivering an “exclusive” story.  

Get involved: If you work for a media outlet, you can sign up for Reveal’s reporting networks here.


Reveal Recommends 

Byard Duncan is an engagement and collaborations reporter who creates ways for our audience to more effectively participate in our reporting. He also helps manage the reporting networks at Reveal.

Listening: Although I've been a big fan of all British folk singer Laura Marling's stuff since 2013, her latest album, “Song for Our Daughter,” is about as close to perfect as you can get. 

Reading: Two things I can't get enough of: NBA basketball and The New York Times Magazine writer Sam Anderson. So when he writes about the NBA – especially in these unprecedented times – I drop everything to read it. 

Watching: Even though we've been awash in so-called "peak TV" for a decade, I have to admit that “The Great British Baking Show” is all I have emotional bandwidth for right now.

You can follow Byard’s work on Twitter: @ByardDuncan.

Do you have feedback for Reveal? Send it over! This newsletter was written by Sarah Mirk, who will share your thoughts with the team.

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