Rachel Adams-Heard ’16 wins prestigious business journalism award The Bloomberg reporter was recognized for her work on investigative podcast “In Trust.”
As one of the few liberal arts institutions with an accredited journalism program, Washington and Lee University offers an interdisciplinary education for aspiring reporters, many of whom go on to excel in the competitive industry. Among them is Rachel Adams-Heard ’16, who recently received a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award.
Adams-Heard, a reporter at Bloomberg, was recognized for her work on the investigative podcast “In Trust.” The podcast tied for first place in the audio category at the Loeb Awards ceremony, held in New York City on Sept. 28.
Established in 1957, the Gerald Loeb Awards were created to “encourage and support reporting on business and finance that would inform and protect the private investor and the general public.” The nationwide competition invites all journalists and media outlets to submit their best work in business journalism. Awards are given in a dozen categories: audio, beat reporting, breaking news, commentary, explanatory, feature, international, investigative, local, personal finance and consumer reporting, video, and visual storytelling.
Co-produced by Bloomberg and iHeartMedia, “In Trust” tells an important story about the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe who bought a large swath of land in present-day Oklahoma. Since the purchase 150 years ago, the Osage Nation was routinely taken advantage of by White settlers. Many tribe members were stripped of their wealth and robbed of their headrights — shares to the mineral rights of the land — either by brutal force or through U.S. government policy. The podcast includes original interviews with the Osage community, who shared their honest and heartbreaking stories with Adams-Heard.
Adams-Heard joined the investigative team at Bloomberg in August 2021, but the podcast’s roots began back in summer 2020 while she was working as Bloomberg’s energy beat reporter. A source contacted her with information of rumors that a prominent ranching family in Osage County owned shares — potentially, many of them — of the Osage Nation’s mineral rights.
“As soon as I got the tip about this story, it struck me as something that was potentially really important to answer,” she said. “I was interested in getting to the bottom of if it was true.”
Adams-Heard, who majored in business journalism at W&L, noted that her undergraduate opportunities played a pivotal role in her professional success. During her time at the university, she was involved in both Ring Tum Phi and Rockbridge Report.
She also took advantage of internship opportunities at various news stations and newspapers. While working as an intern at the Charlotte Observer her junior year, one of the stories she wrote won first place for general news reporting-newspaper (small school division) in Region 2 of the 2014 Society of Professional Journalists college journalism competition. After graduating, she landed a role as the Americas Oil intern at Bloomberg, which led the way for her tenure at the media company.
Throughout her career, Adam-Heard’s W&L coursework proved invaluable as she navigated the industry. Her journalism classes, particularly beat reporting with Professor Alecia Swasy, helped her excel as Bloomberg’s energy reporter. Additionally, a class she took outside her major — a course about poverty taught by Professor Howard Pickett — instilled a valuable lesson that she held close during the production of “In Trust.”
“A big element of the poverty class was how to respectfully tell a story like this,” she said. “A lot of what we learned was about agency and not further victimizing or exploiting people for our own personal gain. And that was just such an important thing to learn and to think about while doing a story that involves something so sensitive.”
Adams-Heard said she was thrilled to have “In Trust” recognized with a Loeb Award, and that the honor was a huge testament to the talented colleagues she had the opportunity to collaborate with for the project.
“It’s also just made me so incredibly grateful for the Osage community and their help in turning this into a story that’s really, at its core, about people and perseverance,” she added. “It’s not just a story about a bunch of old documents, which is definitely what it could have been if we didn’t have the interest of so many families who were willing to open their doors.”