Phoebe Zerwick

Phoebe Zerwick was born on May 3, 1960 in New York City. Zerwick grew up in a politically progressive family during the turbulent sixties. She excelled in school and attended the University of Chicago, with the intent of becoming a doctor. Her interests began moving towards a career as a reporter, and in 1986 Zerwick was admitted to Columbia University's Master's Program in Journalism, considered one of the best in the country.

Upon graduation in 1987 Phoebe began work as a reporter for regional New York newspapers, but then moved south to Lexington, North Carolina where she began her career for the Winston-Salem Journal. It was quite a culture shock to come to the South in that period, but Zerwick soon became well ensconced in the local scene, quickly finding a niche as a reporter dealing with stories that encompassed race, education, health care and criminal justice.

Within two years Phoebe transferred to the main office of the Journal in downtown Winston-Salem. At that time the Journal like many regional newspapers in the South was considered an excellent paper with a large crew of award-winning journalists and support personnel. Zerwick began rising up through the ranks, ultimately working as a beat reporter, columnist, state editor but most especially shining as an investigative reporter. Many of her articles looked at racial issues in Winston-Salem that involved the criminal justice system, white privilege and the ravaging effects of poverty.

In 2003 Zerwick was assigned to do a deep plunge into the case of Darryl Hunt, an African-American Winston-Salem resident who was then in his 17 th year of imprisonment for the rape/murder of a white woman named Deborah Sykes.

The series of articles that Zerwick wrote on this tragic case changed history. She wrote a stirring narrative that was a key factor in Hunt's 2003 exoneration. She was able to change hearts and minds by telling the story in a way that touched people regardless of race.

The Darryl Hunt series in tandem with her body of journalistic work demonstrates the key intersection between journalism and the human/civil rights movement.

In 2022 Zerwick's book Beyond Innocence: The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt was published. In this masterpiece of socially-committed non-fiction the full story of the Hunt case and most especially its tragic aftermath are fully explored. It is a searing indictment of a racist justice system in all its aspects from the police to the prison system.

Zerwick continues her award-winning investigative reporting, and is at present the director of the Journalism Program at Wake Forest University.