2020 Board Candidates

Board of Directors:

(elect 7):

Contest Committee:

(elect 2):

Board of Directors:

Kiran Chawla

Since joining IRE six years ago, I’ve learned so much about investigative journalism. As a broadcaster, I’ve become a better journalist because of skills I’ve learned through the organization, skills that I’ve been able to apply to my daily reporting as the lead investigative reporter at WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge. I’ve also met incredible journalists who I probably wouldn’t have if not for IRE.

Being an IRE member has given me the chance to really get involved with the organization. I’ve presented at the annual conferences, and for the last two years have served on the board’s Member Services Committee, which is responsible for recruiting new members, reviewing training efforts and other tasks. I also have worked to welcome newcomers to investigative journalism and show them how beneficial IRE can be to them. After my session at last year’s annual conference in Houston, a young journalist approached me and asked if I was Indian. When I told her yes, she was thrilled to know that there was someone who looked like her in IRE. Someone with whom she could identify.

That’s something I love about IRE: diversity and inclusion. We need more and I can help do that by mentoring and recruiting. IRE has phenomenal programs that encourage younger journalists to get involved, but there’s always room to do more.

Before moving to WAFB-TV in 2010, I worked as a reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans, covering everything from oil spills to politics. Before that, I was a reporter & fill-in anchor at WJTV-TV in Jackson, Mississippi. I speak several languages, including Hindi & Punjabi. I’m also proficient in French. In 2018, I was named the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters Reporter of the Year & Associated Press’ Newsperson of the Year.

Investigative reporting is my passion, and it’s so important, particularly now. I realize the power of investigative journalism and I never abuse it. My investigations have included police misconduct and questionable government contracts. I often use the tools and training I learned through IRE in my reporting.

IRE has such a stellar reputation around the world as the best investigative journalism training organization. I want to be a part of continuing that mission, and that’s why I’m asking for your vote to join the IRE board.


Matt Goldberg, NBCUniversal Owned TV Stations: It is my honor to nominate Kiran Chawla for the IRE Board of Directors. Kiran is a top notch investigative reporter who’s uncovered corruption, health violations and environmental concerns across Louisiana. Her passion for IRE and ideas for improving the organization’s diversity and services is not only impressive, it’s necessary. We need leaders like Kiran on the IRE board!

Cheryl W. Thompson, NPR: I am thrilled to nominate Kiran Chawla as a candidate for the IRE board. When we met a few years ago at an IRE conference, her passion for the organization was clear. She jumped at the chance to get more involved, and has served on the board’s Member Services Committee for the last two years. Kiran has terrific ideas and energy, which will serve her well if she’s elected.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Lead Investigative Reporter, WAFB-TV, Baton Rouge, La

Prior Experience:

  • Reporter, Assignment Editor, Web Producer, WDSU-TV, New Orleans
  • Reporter, Fill-in Weather, WVLA-TV, Baton Rouge, La
  • Freelance Field Producer, Reporter, WGNO-TV, New Orleans

IRE Experience:

  • Member Services Committee (2018-current)
  • Conference Speaker
  • Member (2014-current)


  • Reporting
  • Source Development
  • Mentoring
  • Stakeouts
  • Anchoring

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • Recruitment, particularly more women and journalists of color
  • Financial assistance for those who can’t afford to attend conferences and workshops
  • Increase Training

Matt Dempsey

I’m Matt Dempsey, data editor at the Houston Chronicle and IRE Board Member. It would be an honor to earn your vote for a second term.

I owe my career to the love and support I received from IRE. Working for IRE in college lit a fire in me to pursue both data and investigative journalism. IRE gave me the training I needed to get my career started. It gave me the connections I needed to reach the next steps in my journey. I’m proud of the work I’ve done in Phoenix, Atlanta and now Houston. All those stories wouldn’t have been possible without the training, support and love I’ve received from IRE.

I’m proud to serve this organization which means so much to me and I still have more to give.

The IRE Board accomplished quite a bit in my first term and I played a role in many of those successes.

In my first term, I

  • worked with fellow board members to make IRE events safer and more welcoming to all with our Code of Conduct.
  • helped change IRE contest rules to reduce conflict of interests between the board in the contest process, prohibiting entries where a board member played a significant role.
  • personally lobbied the Hearst Foundation and my employer to support IRE’s Journalist of Color Fellowship, helping to secure $50,000 for the program.

There’s so much more work to do though.

IRE is facing unprecedented financial challenges during and after the pandemic. It’s more important than ever for IRE to be financially secure so it can support its members and elevate our craft.

As internships and fellowships dry up during this unprecedented crisis, IRE needs to be there to support young journalists get their start, through expanded training efforts and more.

There’s still so much progress to be made on lifting up journalists of color in newsrooms and in IRE. The JOC Fellowship is a good start but we can do more. I want to see IRE grow its mentoring program and find new ways to promote and lift up talented journalists of color. Too many hiring editors say it’s hard to find qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. We can change that together.

We can do more to ensure our members feel safe at IRE events. I want to strengthen our Code of Conduct to make sure everyone can attend our events without fear of harassment.

I hope I can earn your vote. If you have questions about my ideas or just want to talk about IRE and where it can go in the future, reach out to me at [email protected] or find me on twitter @mizzousundevil. I’m looking forward to it.


Jennifer LaFleur, Investigative Reporting Workshop: I am honored to nominate Matt Dempsey to IRE’s Board of Directors. Matt cares deeply about IRE and has been an active member since he was a student. He is a leader and a mentor. During his first term, Matt stepped up to do whatever was needed – from unpacking conference boxes to chairing IRE’s public engagement committee. In these uncertain times, we need people like Matt to help lead IRE.

Brian Rosenthal, The New York Times: I worked with Matt at the Houston Chronicle, and now I have the pleasure of serving with him on the board. Nobody is more dedicated – to IRE, to local journalism and to empowering young journalists. I will be voting to keep him on the board because of his passion, his wisdom and his integrity.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Data Editor, Houston Chronicle

Prior Experience:

  • Data Reporter, Arizona Republic
  • Adjunct Professor- Arizona State University
  • Durable Content Coordinator, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • News Assistant, Arizona Republic
  • Boot Camp Coordinator/Resource Center Staff, IRE

IRE Experience:

  • IRE member since 2001
  • IRE Board Member 2018-2020
  • IRE Contest Screener- 2019, 2020 contests
  • Chair- Engagement Committee 2019
  • NICAR Chair- Conference Committee 2020
  • IRE Staffer in Resource Library and as Boot Camp Coordinator
  • Speaker, trainer, volunteer at numerous IRE/NICAR Conferences
  • Lightning Talk presenter 
  • IRE Journal contributor
  • IRE Award winner


  • Data journalism
  • Public records requests/Public records law
  • Environment
  • Supporting early to mid-career journalists
  • Negotiating collaborations

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • Continue to find ways to support journalists of color, both in the industry and in IRE.
  • Be a voice for early to mid-career journalists and their concerns
  • Ensure IRE events are welcoming to people of all backgrounds and are safe places to learn, grow and network.
  • Developing paths to leadership roles for data journalists.

Jennifer Forsyth

I would like to serve as an IRE board member to be both an evangelist for watchdog reporting and a responsible fiduciary for the organization while it faces extraordinary challenges caused by the pandemic.

When I was a young reporter, I turned to IRE to learn better how to uncover wrongdoing and hold the powerful accountable. I began by plunking down membership money for the tipsheets. I soon found inspiration in the IRE contest submissions and bought data from the library. I attended my first conference in the ’90s and the CAR bootcamp in 2000. I’ve attended nearly 20 IRE or CAR conferences.

Over time, I looked for ways to give back to IRE. I’ve served on the Membership Committee and the Endowment Committee, keeping watch over the funds that preserve the organization. I was a founder of the New York City IRE Meet-ups. I’ve screened entries for IRE’s annual contest and I’ve been an IRE mentor many times.

In my career, I’ve held a variety of roles that allow me to understand the needs of IRE members. I’ve published investigations as a reporter at a tiny paper in New York; at cash-strapped regional dailies in Louisiana and Texas; and as a reporter and editor at a large national paper. A recent collaboration with PBS’s Frontline on a project about the shoddy health care for Native Americans gave me an appreciation for the challenges of visual journalism. I have an understanding of governance gained from editing a project on non-profits that was recognized with a Philip Meyer Award.

I’ve also been a manager for 12 years, overseeing teams ranging from five people to 150. I have advocated for diversity as a hiring manager and newsroom leader — for broadening the opportunities for women and people of color as well as for greater geographic and socioeconomic representation at a New York-based publication. I preach that anyone can do investigative journalism on their beats with the right guidance, skills and commitment.

Tough choices are coming for the board. IRE’s membership and giving will be down as the industry continues to shed jobs. Funding from grant-making institutions could retract, and the level of revenue from the annual conferences will drop. I want to be part of a board that comes up with creative answers to these problems, enabling IRE to thrive and remain affordable for the next generation of journalists. I would draw on my background in financial reporting, my willingness to ask tough questions and my ability to build consensus among diverse groups. I do my homework, am a stickler for good governance, am willing to fundraise and will give any idea from any member a fair hearing.

In addition, I would work to make the conferences even better, helping to plan the most timely panels and widest diversity of speakers — for the times we must gather online or for that happy day when we can greet each other again in person safely.

I would be honored to have your vote.


Mark Horvit, University of Missouri: Jennifer Forsyth was an invaluable adviser when I worked at IRE. I relied on her clear-eyed analysis and no-nonsense outlook while guiding our organization through the last big economic downturn. She has a tireless work ethic, asks hard questions and – more importantly – helps solve problems as she finds them. The role of the board will never be more important. IRE needs Jennifer Forsyth; I’m thrilled she is willing to serve.

Aron Pilhofer, Temple University: Speaking as a longtime IRE member and former board member, I can think of no one more qualified for the IRE board than Jennifer Forsyth. Jennifer isn’t just a terrific journalist, she cares about the future of IRE and understands the important role the board must play in guiding the organization through what will be a very difficult time. For these reasons and many more, I enthusiastically nominate her.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Deputy Chief of Investigations, The Wall Street Journal

Prior Experience:

  • National editor, The Wall Street Journal

  • Dallas Bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal

  • Law Bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal

  • Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

  • Investigative reporter, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

  • Gambling reporter, The Times (Shreveport, La.)

  • Law enforcement reporter, The Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

  • Instructor, Advanced Business and Financial Reporting, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

IRE Experience:

  • Member for more than 20 years, frequent speaker at conferences

  • Membership committee

  • Endowment committee

  • Watchdog workshop volunteer, speaker

  • Frequent mentor at IRE conferences

  • New York City IRE Meet-ups co-founder (with Sarah Cohen and Kevin Keeshan)

  • IRE contest awards screener and super screener


  • Championing reporters

  • Managing projects

  • Running breaking-news investigations

  • Organizing narratives

  • Executing visual-based investigations

  • Bulletproofing data projects

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • Maintaining IRE’s financial stability during a challenging time for non-profits.

  • Keeping costs down for members and looking for ways to help out-of-work journalists remain with the organization.

  • Working toward greater membership diversity.

  • Emphasizing the most timely and relevant topics for conference panels.

Marisa Kwiatkowski 

These are challenging times for IRE, and I’m running because I believe I can help.

If elected, my primary focus would be on the continued financial health of the organization.

IRE has been thriving, but it’s not immune to difficulties caused by the coronavirus. The organization has had to postpone four watchdog workshops, three boot camps and a variety of customized newsroom trainings. Membership is down and, as of this writing, the IRE Conference has been delayed until August, if it is able to be held at all. Those dynamics have a serious impact on IRE’s budget.

I have more than seven years of nonprofit board leadership experience, including as past president of the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and in executive board positions for nonprofits unrelated to journalism. I’ve had to balance budgets, develop strategic planning and think creatively. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.

I’d love to work with the board and staff to find ways to bring in revenue while keeping costs reasonable for our members. For example, I’d like to explore the possibility of building upon IRE’s terrific webinar series, so journalists can continue to connect and learn year-round.

And I am interested in working on IRE’s mentorship program. I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor over the years, and I would love to continue to strengthen the program so more people can benefit from it.

I’ve been an IRE member for 14 years, and a frequent speaker at IRE conferences and workshops. I’m currently an investigative reporter for USA TODAY. In my nearly 16 years in journalism, I’ve worked for small and large publications, as well as a TV station. I understand the challenges that are both unique to and shared by various types of news organizations. Much of my work has been focused on issues relating to social services and welfare, but I’ve also produced investigations relating to business, religion, crime and government.

In 2016, my Indianapolis Star colleagues and I produced an investigation into USA Gymnastics that revealed top officials at the sport’s national governing body failed to report many allegations of sexual abuse by coaches. As a result of the series, more than 500 people came forward with allegations of sexual abuse against former team doctor Larry Nassar. He is now in prison. The president and board of directors of USA Gymnastics resigned. The organization filed for bankruptcy. And our work spurred a new federal law that makes it a crime for national governing bodies to fail to immediately report sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement.

It would be an honor to serve the IRE community. Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope you will elect me to the board.


Sandra Chapman, WTHR-Indianapolis: I am honored to nominate Marisa Kwiatkowski as a candidate for the IRE Board. Marisa is a well respected journalist whose work has forged change across Indiana. Marisa and I served on the Board of the Indy Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As President, Marisa provided strong leadership; boosting membership, overseeing training events and an awards program. She is committed and prepared, and would make an excellent addition to the IRE slate.

Manny Garcia, ProPublica/Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative: Marisa Kwiatkowski is a terrific choice to join the IRE board. She represents the best of IRE: leadership, mentorship, thoroughness and collaboration. She is an award-winning journalist who would bring strong business acumen to IRE. She has an MBA and has served in numerous non-profit roles, including the Indiana Professional Chapter of SPJ. Having a board member with such a proven track record is crucial now to IRE’s success.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Investigative reporter, USA TODAY

Prior Experience:

  • Investigative reporter, The Indianapolis Star (2013 – 2019)

  • Investigative reporter, The Times of Northwest Indiana (2006-2013) I covered city government, then criminal courts before focusing solely on investigations starting in 2009.

  • Government reporter, Florence Morning News (2006)

  • Convergence reporter, Florence Morning News and WBTW News13 (2005-2006)

  • Education reporter, Grand Haven Tribune (2004-2005)

IRE Experience:

  • I’ve been an IRE member for 14 years. My first IRE experience was at an “Unleashing the Watchdog” training in 2006 in Atlanta.

  • I’ve been a frequent speaker at IRE conferences and workshops, and I had the pleasure of co-teaching a master class on interviewing. I’ve served as both a mentee and a mentor for the organization.

  • My colleagues and I also received IRE’s Tom Renner Award in 2017 for our investigation into USA Gymnastics and former team doctor Larry Nassar.


  • I have nearly 16 years of journalism experience, more than a decade of which has been spent as an investigative reporter. Much of my focus has been on issues relating to social services and welfare, but I’ve also produced investigations relating to business, religion, crime and government.

  • I’ve worked for small and large publications, as well as a TV station. I understand the challenges that are both unique to and shared by various types of news organizations.

  • I also have extensive nonprofit board experience. I previously served as president of the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and in leadership roles for other nonprofits that do not relate to journalism.

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • IRE’s finances

  • Online training opportunities

  • Mentorship

Jennifer LaFleur

Thank you for electing me to the IRE Board of Directors in 2018. I’m asking you to support me for a second term.

Despite having been a long-time active member of IRE, I, as a new board member, faced a learning curve. Now that I’ve gained experience, I’d like to continue to contribute to IRE in this role.

During my first term, I served on several committees, including chairing the contest committee. I continued the important work that Jill Riepenhoff and other current and previous board members did to diversify the committee and restructure the contest for a changing media landscape. If you need some inspiration, check out the work of this year’s winners and finalists.

I continued to contribute as a trainer and mentor and I’ve sponsored dozens of student members.

We need to do all we can to keep IRE strong during this unprecedented time. IRE had to be nimble to adjust to virtual trainings and meetings, but it happened almost seamlessly, thanks to the hard work of the staff and the presenters who generously gave their time. Please check out the latest webinars.

The way we participate now may be different, but the spirit of IRE remains the same. IRE changes lives. It gives young journalists and veterans alike the tools to do stories that matter in these times.

IRE changed my life as well. It fueled my interest in investigative reporting when I was a graduate student at The Missouri School of Journalism. Later, I returned to Missouri to be IRE training director during the scrappy early days of NICAR.

As others have said, IRE is like the Hotel California – you never really leave. Over the years, I coordinated a FOIA committee, wrote for the IRE Journal and helped train at local workshops and national conferences.

I built on the work of Cheryl Phillips and Mark Katches by coordinating the mentoring program for several years.

I will continue to work to bring members from diverse backgrounds and experiences into IRE. I will continue to support training programs. I will work to bring more students into IRE to safeguard investigative reporting in the future. I also would like to ensure that long-time members continue to be integral to the organization.

I will continue to be of service to a dedicated staff working to keep IRE strong. That strength is incredibly important now, when reporters need investigative tools to keep government and our institutions accountable.

But ultimately, my role as a board member is about what you, the members, want. I will continue to seek your input to keep our IRE strong.

A bit about me: I have spent most of my career doing data journalism and investigative reporting and editing, first at newspapers and then in nonprofit investigative newsrooms. I’m a proud alum of ProPublica and The Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal. I’m now at The Investigative Reporting Workshop and teach data journalism at American University. More details are here.

Thanks for your support!


Tisha Thompson, ESPN: I am very pleased to nominate Jennifer LaFleur to IRE’s Board of Directors. In this time of crisis — when many of our colleagues are under intense stress and facing the real threat of layoffs and furloughs, we need leaders on our board who are not afraid to make tough decisions that protect the future of our organization while continuing to provide IRE’s vital resources that are now even more valuable to us all. Jennifer has been a member of IRE her entire professional life and has always quietly and selflessly given a tremendous amount to the organization — she loves IRE and I am confident she will help take care of it through these turbulent times.

Shoshana Walter, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting: I’m thrilled to nominate Jennifer LaFleur, who inspires the best in anyone she meets. Jen’s expertly guided the reporting on award-winning projects, champions diversity in journalism, and has mentored countless students and journalists, myself included (she even inspired me to read Philip Meyer for fun). Jen not only shares her knowledge and expertise, but makes others believe they can do it too. She embodies the true spirit of IRE.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Data editor, Investigative Reporting Workshop, an independent nonprofit investigative newsroom.

  • I also teach data journalism at American University where IRW is based.

Prior Experience:

  • Senior editor, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, oversaw team of data journalists and investigative reporters
  • Director of computer-assisted reporting, ProPublica
  • Data editor/reporter, Dallas Morning News
  • Journalism Fellow, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Data editor/reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Data editor, San Jose Mercury News

IRE Experience:

  • IRE Board member, elected 2018
  • IRE Contest Committee chair, 2019
  • Member for 20+ years
  • First IRE training director
  • IRE trainer for past 20+ years
  • IRE mentor and former mentoring coordinator
  • IRE FOIA committee chair
  • IRE contest screener
  • Regular speaker/attendee both IRE and NICAR


  • Data journalism
  • Investigative reporting/editing
  • Training/teaching
  • FOIA/Open records

Issues I’d like to address

  • Continuing efforts to increase the diversity of IRE
  • Bringing more students into IRE
  • Keeping IRE financially strong and visible
  • Keeping long-time members actively involved­
  • Listening to what member feedback

Mike Reilley

I could help IRE in a number of areas, but my focus is on education/training and strategic planning. We’ll be working with IRE during a difficult time, with newsroom layoffs/firings/furloughs, industry-wide budget cuts, the pandemic and many other issues.

IRE needs board members who are patient, will listen and will not be afraid to make tough decisions during difficult times. I’ve had A LOT of crisis management board experience with SPJ and other boards I have served on, and that experience can come in handy over the next two years.

My background is in online, newspapers and teaching. I’m entering my fifth year this fall at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where I teach data and multimedia journalism. I’m also an SPJ digital trainer who has taught Google News Lab tools to more than 6,000 journalists and educators in 41 states the past four years.

I’m the owner/founder of Penny Press Digital LLC, a consulting and training company that works with organizations such as Gannett and many others. And I continue to update JournalistsToolbox.org, which has a deep archive of investigative, data and public records resources. I founded the site 24 years ago.

Yes, I keep busy. But I put in the time on my board and committee duties. I enjoy doing it.

More background: I’ve worked in small and large newsrooms, starting at a weekly, the Papillion (Nebraska) Times, where I made $135 a week, in the mid-1980s. I spent seven years at the LA Times, two at the Chicago Tribune founding ChicagoTribune.com and 2000 at WashingtonPost.com’s national desk. Prior to teaching at UIC, I served for 13 years as a faculty member at Northwestern, Arizona State University and DePaul University.

I also hold journalism degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (undergrad) and Northwestern University (masters).


Samantha Sunne, independent journalist: Mike has been a natural leader among our group of trainers and a successful member of the SPJ board. He is a dedicated community builder who would be a great addition to the IRE board.

Brant Houston, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: I am pleased to nominate Mike. He has an extensive background in reporting and in teaching digital skills. He has spent significant time serving on a journalism board and has an entrepreneurial spirit. Furthermore, his work with newsrooms and students across the country gives him a deep understanding of the state of the profession. Clearly, Mike will be one of the strong leaders that IRE needs in these challenging times.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • University of Illinois-Chicago full-time faculty member, lecturer in data and digital journalism (four years)
    Students produce in-depth data-driven stories on issues in Chicago neighborhoods for RedLineProject.org, a site I built in 2010.
  • SPJ Digital trainer in the Google News Lab training program (four years)
    Trained more than 6,000 journalists and students on Google tools. 170 trainings in 41 states. Also do remote teaching/webinars.

  • Owner and trainer: Penny Press Digital Consulting (two years)
    Digital training and consulting for clients such as Gannett, BEA, APME NewsTrain, several newspaper chains and journalism schools.

  • The Journalist’s Toolbox, founder and editor, JournalistsToolbox.org (24 years)
    Updating (and redesigning) journalism resource site that I founded in 1996. It has been housed at API and later SPJ since 2002.

  • SPJ Board of Directors, at-large member (four years)
    Finishing two-year term on the board in August, serving on EIJ conference planning committee and strategic planning task force committee. Previously served on the board as campus at-large member (2014-15).

Prior Experience:

  • How old is Mike? He wrote his first line of HTML in Neil Chase’s graduate journalism class in 1995, and he was one of the 11 founding editors of ChicagoTribune.com in 1996.

  • Prior to that, he worked at the LA Times as a full-time reporter for seven years, and spent a year on the national desk in 2000 at WashingtonPost.com. Mike served for 13 years as a faculty member at Northwestern, Arizona State University and DePaul University, teaching digital journalism to hundreds of students and professional journalists. He was the first Digital Director for ASU’s Cronkite News at Arizona PBS.

  • Besides SPJ, I’m a member of many other journalism organizations and served on the boards of the Rimington Trophy committee (Heisman Trophy for college football centers) and Special Olympics Nebraska.

  • He holds journalism degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (undergraduate) and Northwestern University (masters).

IRE Experience:

  • Member for several years

  • NICAR conference trainer three of the past four years


  • Teaching and training with data visualization, spreadsheets, social media, multimedia tools

  • Strategic planning

  • Research

  • Program design

  • Entrepreneurship (owns two companies)

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • I could help IRE in a number of areas, but my focus is on education/training and strategic planning. We’ll be working with IRE during a difficult time, with newsroom layoffs, the pandemic and many other issues. I’ve had A LOT of crisis management board experience with SPJ and other boards I have served on, and that experience can come in handy over the next two years.

Jill Riepenhoff

The first five years on the IRE board produced a whirlwind of positive news.

Our finances were strong. Our leadership and staff are second to none. Our conferences, workshops and boot camps attract more and more journalists.

IRE was in a good place. But then, the coronavirus pandemic hit, throwing our traditional way of training and fundraising into turmoil. Our most important revenue streams – conferences and membership – are threatened.

In these uncertain times, I bring institutional knowledge to a relatively new board and a passion to serve as we face more and more difficult decisions.

After hitting a record number of memberships earlier this year, now we are losing hundreds a month. We need to build a robust program to retain those members and attract new ones as our programming shifts from large, in-person events to online, at least for now.

We need to plan for our future with a strong strategic plan while also shoring up the immediate budget crisis.

Those who know me will tell you that I’m a hard worker. Give me a job, and I’ll get it done. I’m a team player.

I’m a recovering newspaper reporter at The Columbus Dispatch. Never would I have dreamed that after nearly 32 years, I would have left to switch to digital and broadcast.

The issues confronting journalists here in the middle can sometimes be different. I want to continue to be a voice on the board from the Midwest who has experience in nearly every corner of the journalism landscape.

All of us in this industry are suffering from furloughs and layoffs just as we are covering what likely is the most important story of our lives. We need a strong and successful IRE to help all of us become better at what we do. I can help by adding stability, continuity and a small newsroom perspective.

I’ve helped guide change that benefited small newsrooms and student journalists.

As contest committee chair, I worked to strengthen the awards so the work of smaller news organizations with fewer resources were not overlooked.

Even before joining the IRE board, I’ve been a fierce advocate for student journalists. I helped push for a change to our bylaws so that they could vote. I’ve created mentorships for them, personally sponsored numerous student IRE memberships and helped train them through IRE-sponsored events.

As we navigate these next few months, I will work hard to help stabilize this organization so that we can once again regain solid footing. And, I will push for transparency at every step of the way.

If you return me to the IRE board, I will continue to serve in the best interest of this organization we love.


Mc Nelly Torres, independent journalist: Since Jill Riepenhoff was elected to the board in 2014, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that IRE thrives as an organization. For four years, Riepenhoff chaired the IRE’s contest committee, a time-consuming and thankless job. This is devotion folks. IRE needs stability as we navigate these turbulent times. This is why I’m nominating Riepenhoff to continue her service on the board.

Tisha Thompson, ESPN: I am nominating Jill Riepenhoff to be a member of IRE’s Board. Because of the economic downturn and the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, IRE will be facing difficult planning and financial decisions. I know Jill will be a careful steward of IRE’s long-term financial health and will protect the organization’s core mission.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Investigative producer for Gray Television’s national investigative team, InvestigateTV, working remotely from Columbus, Ohio.

Prior Experience:

  • Reporter, The Columbus Dispatch, where I roamed the state for some 32 years writing about murders, government mayhem, and meaty investigative issues that changed laws and changed lives

IRE Experience:

  • I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the board since 2014 and currently am the board’s secretary and a member of its Executive Committee. During my tenure on the board, I’ve served as the chair of both the contest and membership services committees for several years and have served on the governance committee.

  • As a longtime, active member of IRE, I’ve spoken at conferences and watchdog workshops.

  • I’ve mentored and helped young journalists and students beyond conference settings.


  • I’m passionate about investigative reporting, public records, data journalism and college athletics.

  • I’m a task master and a go-getter.

  • I’m a firm believer in the powers of IRE and have institutional knowledge of how the organization operates to help it weather one of its stormiest times.

Issues I’d like to address

  • Ensuring IRE’s financial health.

  • Ushering the organization into a new and uncertain world where our traditional methods of training and fundraising, at least for now, are in jeopardy.

  • Creating a strategic plan to guide the board’s decision-making in the future.

Mark J. Rochester

I am declaring my candidacy for the IRE Board of Directors.

During this turbulent time where journalism is experiencing an unprecedented shift in focus, and tremendous uncertainty regarding business models and sustainability, I want to utilize my executive leadership experience to help IRE navigate this indeterminate future and continue to advocate for investigative journalism. For more than 25 years I have spearheaded high-impact investigative reporting in industry-leading newsrooms from New York to California – accountability journalism that has inspired federal and state legislation, Congressional hearings, regulatory reviews, criminal prosecutions and exposed corporate misconduct. 

I served on the IRE board in the early 2000’s, when the country was beginning to experience tumulus economic conditions and the news industry began what has become a sustained period of retrenchment. It was during that time I played a key role in securing seed money and other support for the annual IRE conference held in Denver, which featured Dan Rather as its keynote speaker.

I care passionately about watchdog reporting and have successfully advocated for resources and personnel to support it throughout my career. In recent years, I worked to build one of the largest and most respected investigative reporting operations within Gannett, as senior news director at the Detroit Free Press. After several years producing award-winning journalism that resulted in statewide and municipal reforms, I made the difficult decision to leave the Free Press and pursue a passion project – accepting the Editor in Chief position at Type Investigations, the investigative reporting division of Type Media Center in Manhattan

I left a nationally recognized investigative operation for a nonprofit investigative newsroom because I wanted to be involved in project that not only created high-impact accountability reporting, but actually helped develop aspiring journalists. One of the ways Type is unique is in its commitment to expanding opportunities for a wide variety of journalists to enter the investigative field.

As a young reporter and later as a metro desk editor, I witnessed many reporters — and myself — being denied opportunities to work on investigative stories because we did not fit a certain profile. These were not just predictable episodes of race and gender biases of decision-makers, there are often other workplace attitudes that impact opportunities for some journalists to break into investigative reporting. As an African American journalist, it has been a solemn commitment for me to bring greater racial, ethnic and gender diversity to investigative reporting — an objective IRE leadership supports and has put significant resources behind in recent years.

I want to contribute to the important work IRE does to provide hands-on training and other professional development opportunities, mentorship and investigative resources to enable everyone with passion and ideas for journalism that can make their communities better gets a chance to pursue that can of work.

I would appreciate your support.


Peter Bhatia, Detroit Free Press: I am enthusiastically nominating Mark Rochester for the IRE board. My message to him when I joined the Free Press was nothing matters more than top-flight investigative work. Mark delivered it and did so with regularity and impact that resulted in significant change. He was a major player in restoring the paper to being seen more widely as the watchdog voice of Michigan, and represented us well at IRE.

Cheryl W. Thompson, NPR: I am thrilled to nominate Mark Rochester as a candidate for the IRE board. Mark brings a wealth of investigative reporting and editing experience, and leadership. He served one term on the board — from 2001-2003 — but has never stopped contributing to the organization. He currently is a member of the board’s Conference and Public Engagement committees. He is innovative and absolutely committed to moving IRE forward.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Editor in Chief at Type Investigations, a nonprofit newsroom in Manhattan

Prior Experience:

  • Senior news director for investigations at the Detroit Free Press

  • Senior leadership positions at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Associated Press, Denver Post, Newsday and the Indianapolis Star

IRE Experience:

  • Served on the national board of directors of Investigative Reporters & Editors from 2001-2003.

  • In more than 25 years as an investigative editor, participated in numerous IRE/NICAR conference panels and watchdog workshops, served as annual contest judge and/or screener, planning committees for annual IRE/NICAR conferences.


  • Currently on the national advisory board of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington, D.C.

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • Ensure IRE continues on a path of increasing services and resources to members, especially emerging journalists committed to pursuing investigative reporting as their beat, full-time assignment or basis of their independent journalism career.
  • Be sensitive to the costs of membership, training and other services, while balancing the needs of the organization.
  • Listen to and get feedback from the membership. Communicate and be transparent, accountable, approachable and responsive to members.
  • Bring experienced leadership – both from senior management perspective and organizational history – balance, energy and diversity to the Board.

Norberto Santana, Jr.

I am asking our members to return me as a board director for another term with Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Since coming onto the board in 2018, I have been a strong and consistent voice for increased diversity, transparency and affordability for conferences and services for our members.

I have been an active IRE member since attending my first conference as a minority fellow, back in 1999.

This past year, I served directly on the IRE contest committee as a judge and also worked on the IRE Endowment Committee, helping our treasurer oversee our nonprofit’s financial investments and endowment funds.

I have worked primarily at newspapers over my career, starting at Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C. during the 1990s and working throughout my native Southern California for the last two decades for most of the major dailies in our area covering local government as an investigative reporter and columnist.

For the past decade, I also have worked as a local publisher and editor, growing an award-winning, daily digital nonprofit newsroom, Voice of OC in Orange County, California covering a community of three million with about 40 local government agencies, training apprentice reporters on accountability skills and teaching journalism at Chapman University in Orange by developing a unique program training students to cover city halls across our region.

Much like the Great Recession of a decade ago, IRE no doubt will face challenges in the Coronavirus era.

Our membership could soon be smaller, with potential cuts and layoffs at mainstream newsrooms across America.

It’s also unclear how hotel conferences fit into our future given the impact of the Coronavirus.

Those issues have big implications for our organization.

As a board member, I am ready to step up.

We are lucky at IRE that we have a committed board of directors and competent staff.

Our organization can continue to thrive.

I very much support a continued shift in resources toward producing online training for our members and have been an early advocate of transforming the 2020 conference into a virtual experience.

That experience could prove very helpful as IRE continues to focus on online training resources throughout the rest of year.

While super challenging, I support this effort as key toward also making IRE more affordable and accessible to reporters and editors who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend a large IRE conference or live training session.

It’s also key for offering heightened training opportunities to the expanding ranks of our international investigative colleagues.

In my mind, affordability, accessibility and diversity all go hand and hand, thus the more learning and networking opportunities that we can provide, the more IRE can continue to to carry on the banner of training and supporting the next generation of investigative journalists.


Cheryl W. Thompson, NPR: I am honored to nominate Norberto Santana as a candidate for the IRE board. Norberto is super collegial and dives right into whatever committee work he’s assigned. He brings a fresh perspective to issues that matter to the organization, like diversity and equality. Norberto calls things like he sees them and is refreshingly unapologetic. He is an asset and IRE needs his experience for a second term.

Brant Houston, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: I am enthusiastically nominating Norberto to serve again on the Board. Norberto is a vigilant, passionate board member who constantly supports diversity in IRE and, as a leader of a nonprofit newsroom, knows the importance of entrepreneurship in these tough times. Norberto also is sensitive to the hardships our members face and the need to keep IRE affordable. His voice remains a crucial one to keep on the board.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Publisher & Editor in Chief, Voice of OC, Orange County, CA

Prior Experience:

  • Newspaper investigative reporter
  • Digital Publisher
  • Columnist

IRE Experience:

  • Board Member since 2018
  • Contest Committee
  • Member Services Committee
  • Endowment Committee


  • Local Government investigations
  • Publishing
  • Nonprofit newsroom management

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • Diversity
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Online Training & Conferences

Kat Stafford

I met an older African American woman once who told me in her several decades of living in Detroit – the nation’s largest black city – she felt most stories failed to deeply capture her life experiences in a deep, nuanced way.

When she read the newspaper or watched television, she didn’t see many people who looked like her telling those stories. That moment, and experiencing that myself, helped lead me down a path to pursue a career in investigative journalism.

We know the statistics.

Newsroom diversity is abysmal — amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are concerns it may only worsen. And when you look at diversity within the investigative journalism space, the number of journalists of color in this space is even smaller. It’s one reason I’ve decided to pursue this IRE board candidacy.

IRE has a rich illustrious history since 1975 of growing skillsets and providing a level of training you can’t obtain elsewhere. Last year especially was the most diverse IRE conferences I’ve attended — but the work must continue in a transparent way. IRE is well positioned to lead the industry in this regard.

As a board member, I will take a deeper look at programming to ensure we’re equipping members with the best tools to cover their communities, especially the aftermath of COVID-19 which has disproportionately impacted people of color. We need to find new, bold ways to increase access to our training opportunities and materials, while ensuring our financial viability and leveraging partnerships. I will also work to continue the momentum we have in growing the membership base: Young journalists especially are clamoring to move into this work. There are ways to bring new and younger demographics deeper into IRE. Above all, I want to be of service for IRE’s membership, which is you. I want to ensure that the next journalist, especially the next journalist of color, knows that IRE will continue to be a welcoming place of inclusivity.

Together, we will: Build. Retain. Grow.


Topher Sanders, ProPublica: I am nominating Kat Stafford for IRE’s board. I know Kat through our IRE Member Services committee roles and investigative training sessions she’s helped lead for the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. Kat will bring new energy to the board and a passion for helping more journalists of color pursue investigative journalism. I wholeheartedly nominate Kat for the board.

Ron Nixon, The Associated Press: I am writing to nominate Kat Stafford of the Associated Press for the board of directors of Investigative Editors and Reporters. I have known Kat for several years and think she would be a great addition to the board. She brings boundless energy and youth to the board. Kat is a first-rate investigative reporter, who would also be valuable asset to IRE in its efforts to reach out to communities of color. 

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Associated Press, national race and ethnicity writer, Feb. 2020-present

Prior Experience:

  • Detroit Free Press, enterprise/investigative reporter, April 2017-Feb. 2020

  • Detroit Free Press, breaking news reporter, March 2014-April 2017

  • MLIVE/Ann Arbor News, Ypsilanti reporter, June 2012- Sept. 2013

  • Thomson Reuters, business stringer, Feb. 2012- Feb. 2013

  • Ida B. Wells Society investigative workshop trainer

  • National Association of Black Journalists, Print Synergy leadership advisory team member — current

  • Society of Professional Journalists, Detroit Chapter Vice President – current

  • Ida B. Wells Investigative Fellow, Type Investigations – June 2019-June 2020

  • Michigan Coalition for Open Government board member- current

IRE Experience:

  • Member Services Committee, 2019-20 — Responsible for member recruitment, reviewing training efforts and member resources.

  • IRE Awards screener for the 2019 and 2020 rounds. Responsible for selecting contest entrants to go onto the final round of judging in various categories.

  • Awarded the Chicago Tribune Foundation Fellowship in 2018, which supports IRE’s goal of increasing diversity within the investigative journalism community.

  • Attended and participated in three IRE conferences – New Orleans, Orlando and Houston.


  • Investigative reporting
  • Data and records
  • FOIA requests
  • FOIA/government transparency advocate
  • Government accountability reporting
  • Community-based reporting
  • Race and ethnicity reporting

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • IRE diversity and increasing our presence in advocating for diversity and inclusion in investigative positions

  • Ramping up membership recruitment

  • Build upon current programming to offer more options in line with membership needs

  • Build out an accountability tracking system to keep track of investigative journalism positions as newsrooms continue to shrink.

  • Identify potential partnership opportunities with other like-minded journalism organizations to better serve our membership.

Jodi Upton

The next few years will be challenging for IRE, not just because a pandemic threatens its coffers and outreach, but because our membership is facing a continued crisis. With the assault on press freedoms, the closing of hundreds of news outlets and the constant threat of furloughs and layoffs, it’s never been tougher to be a journalist. Yet, I’ve never been prouder to call this my tribe. As an academic, I work with students brave enough to follow this path and with professional journalists who won’t quit. But the disruption has just begun. I want to ensure IRE can continue to support journalists who get up every day and keep fighting — whatever happens next. 

The financial crisis is my most crucial focus as IRE’s treasurer, and I will continue to work with past and present executive directors and presidents who have weathered previous economic storms. As endowment chair, I will continue to keep a close eye on IRE’s future to ensure the next generation will inherit a fiscally-sound organization. I will continue to push for an updated strategic plan and seek advice from inside and outside journalism to guide our path. And I will continue to find creative solutions for threats to critical revenue sources. Throughout, I will continue to make sure the board’s decisions are clearly communicated.

In the past two years, I have served on nearly every IRE committee. I secured $50,000 for IRE programs to train professors (to teach data, with particular focus at HBCUs and HSIs) and create networking opportunities for students. I have paid for 27 students to attend NICAR in the past three years — nearly half students of color. And I pushed for the ongoing campaign to help furloughed and laid-off journalists maintain their membership.

I have worked in nearly every aspect of journalism, from small newspapers to national networks with 100+ outlets. I’ve told news stories through print, video and immersive interactives. I’ve worked on my own and led teams; I’ve reported in the U.S. and internationally; I’ve won awards for covering a beat, crafting long-form narratives and using social science methods. And I’ve been an editor for nearly every storytelling platform. 

But now, my focus is the next generation. I teach students data and investigative techniques, and this year my students filed open records requests for thousands of documents in almost every state. Besides teaching Syracuse students, I have trained hundreds of journalists at IRE Conferences, and in the U.K., Belgium, Norway, South Africa, Tunisia, Mexico and South Korea.

I have been fortunate in my long career to have won many awards, most of which came from working with great teams. But I don’t think an IRE board position should be based on awards won or years served. A strong board should have directors with good fiscal management experience, a passion for the work and a plan for the future. This is what I focused on for the past two years. I hope you will allow me to continue.


Sarah Cohen, Cronkite School of Journalism / ASU: I am happy to nominate Jodi Upton for a second term on the IRE board. As IRE’s treasurer, Jodi has secured money for training programs and developed experience with IRE’s budget, investments and endowments. Since joining the board, Jodi has worked to ensure that IRE’s finances and governance will withstand the coming year’s challenges. Her experience is just what IRE needs now.

Lee Zurik, WVUE-TV (New Orleans): As we face fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, IRE needs experienced, thoughtful, and insightful board members like Jodi Upton. The past two years, I’ve watched Jodi thrive keeping a close eye on our budget and acting as our unofficial parliamentarian. As our treasurer, Jodi always asks the right questions and is always there to serve our membership. Dedicated members with Jodi’s expertise are critical to IRE’s future. 

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Knight Chair in Data and Explanatory Journalism, Syracuse University

Prior Experience:

  • Data team lead, USA TODAY
  • Database editor, USA TODAY Sports
  • Investigative/data reporter, The Detroit News
  • Projects reporter, The Flint Journal
  • City Hall, Auto Industry and Business beat reporter, The Lansing State Journal
  • JSK Fellow, Stanford University, 2002-03

IRE Experience:

  • Treasurer, Endowment Committee chair
  • Served on Membership, Public Engagement and Conference committees
  • Helped create and fund IRE on Campus
  • Member nearly 30 years
  • Co-founder of Torchlight Fellowship scholarship to attend IRE/NICAR
  • Trainer (part-time), 2004-05
  • Speaker/presenter at more than 30 conferences
  • Phil Meyer Award contest judge, 2018-20
  • Contest screener
  • Mentor


  • Data analysis
  • Open records
  • Beat coverage
  • College sports data (especially revenue and expenses)
  • Data science

Relevant links:

Issues I’d like to address

  • Work with staff and board to steady IRE’s finances in the current economic situation and maintain IRE’s endowment. Look for creative solutions in the short and long term, and update IRE’s strategic plan.

    Continue to:

    1. work toward membership diversity among professionals and students

    2. develop collaborations with journalism schools (both training and content)

    3. seek funding for student and academic programs at conferences and through IRE training and

    4. look for opportunities with appropriate media and non-media partners.

Mark Walker

I’m a longtime IRE member and the FOIA coordinator for the Washington bureau of The New York Times. I attended my first IRE event in 2015, when I was a breaking news and cops reporter at The Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D. During an awards ceremony, I received an impromptu award for traveling the furthest to attend the workshop. When I stood at the podium, someone asked me about my career goals, and I said I wanted to be an investigative reporter. Thanks to the skills I learned at that workshop, I became a watchdog reporter by the end of the year. I then attended other IRE workshops, conferences and a data boot camp to further develop and refine my skills as a reporter. Those experiences propelled me to where I am today. I later became a training director for IRE and left last year to join the NYT, where I regularly file FOIAs at the local, state and federal levels, negotiate with public information officers for records and work with attorneys to file suits and appeals when necessary. I believe my career path starting as a breaking news reporter in the rural state of South Dakota, then traveling across the country to train print and broadcast journalists, and now working for the NYT provides me with a unique perspective that can benefit the board, particularly over the next several months as the industry continues to feel the ripple effects of the pandemic.


Cheryl W. Thompson, NPR: I am proud to nominate Mark Walker for the IRE board. I first met Mark in 2017 when he was IRE’s newly minted training director and was leading a watchdog workshop in Maine. I was wowed by how much he knew about the organization and what it needed to offer to keep journalists on the cutting edge. Mark is smart, hardworking and would be an asset to IRE.

Ellen Gabler, The New York Times: I nominate Mark Walker for the IRE Board. Mark’s experience in newsrooms across the country has given him valuable perspective to offer as an IRE board member. Mark has worked as an IRE staff member training print and broadcast journalists, a reporter at a newspaper in South Dakota, and now as FOIA coordinator for The New York Times. I am confident he would work hard on account of IRE members.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • FOIA coordinator Washington bureau The New York Times

Prior Experience:

  • Training director for Investigative Reporters and Editors

IRE Experience:

  • I have been a member for five years and previously worked as a training director for the organization


  • Data analysis
  • Federal FOIA
  • State public records
  • Watchdog reporting
  • Databases
  • Teaching

Issues I’d like to address

  • I want to make sure the board works closely with the staff members at IRE to maximize communication and ideas.
  • I want to work with the board to increase the variety of classes offered at conferences and ensure diversity of panelists.
  • I also want to address the diversity of our membership.

Lee Zurik

I believe I have the experience, vision, skillset, and work ethic to help guide IRE as we manage fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to work on priorities like diversity, fundraising, and training. I’ve spent four years on the board including the last two as Vice President. 

Currently, I’m Chief Investigative Reporter and Anchor for WVUE-TV in New Orleans and Director of Investigations for Gray Television. The latter is a management position where I oversee a staff of journalists and a budget. 

These will be my priorities the next two years: 

  • COVID-19/The future of IRE — This is a critical time for IRE. The uncertainty of our summer conference combined with industry cutbacks, leaves a challenging road ahead. If re-elected, I will work with the board to consult with past IRE leaders to help advise how to navigate this difficult stretch. We need to create a strategic plan for the future.
  • Fundraising — Fundraising over the next few years will be more critical and more difficult than ever. In the past four years, I’ve secured sponsors who haven’t previously supported IRE. Those connections have helped raise more than $650,000 for IRE. Fundraising is imperative to our financial health. It has also kept our conferences among the cheapest in the industry. 
  • Diversity — IRE must continue to prioritize diversity. As a board member, I pushed for funds raised at the annual luncheon to be directed to diversity scholarships and fellowships. I helped secure corporate donations this year to fund additional diversity fellowships. I also pushed for the creation of a new Diversity Task Force that will begin this summer. It will focus on recruiting diverse members to run for the board and other diversity needs of IRE.
  • Training — Training is a core mission of IRE and will continue to be one of my top priorities. During the uncertain times of this pandemic, we must continue to find creative ways to train our members – like the virtual training you’ve seen. We have an opportunity to reach reporters in the U.S. and internationally who have never attended a conference or workshop. We need to build those relationships. We also must support members whose careers have been impacted by the pandemic.
  • Students — Students are our future. IRE has a long history of supporting the next generation of investigative reporters. We need to continue creating ways to help our young members and make IRE affordable for them. And we also must continue to help train the college professors who are teaching these students. 

While my professional experience is in television, I serve members from all platforms. I’ve partnered on projects with print, online, and radio outlets including NOLA.com, ProPublica, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and New Orleans Public Radio. I believe that spirit of collaboration fosters a productive board.

This is a critical time for IRE. We need leaders with both IRE and management experience to help guide us through COVID-19 fallout. I would be honored to serve another two years on the board. 


Sarah Cohen, Cronkite School of Journalism / ASU: I am honored to nominate Lee Zurik for a third term on IRE’s board. I served on the board with Lee and have watched him as a member and as vice president put countless hours into the organization. He’s secured funding for IRE and its mission and worked to ensure that all members are represented and served. Right now, dedicated board members like Lee are crucial to IRE’s future.

Manny Garcia, ProPublica/Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative: It’s my honor to nominate Lee Zurik for re-election to the IRE Board.Lee’s work has exposed wrongdoing and improved lives.  But it’s his leadership that merits his return to the board. He sits on the Executive Committee and leads the Governance Committee, key roles that help shape the future of IRE. He’s also a mentor to rising journalists. He models the way and represents the best of IRE.

Candidate Q&A

Current position:

  • Chief Investigative Reporter/ Evening News Anchor– WVUE-TV (New Orleans)

  • Director of Investigations – Gray Television/InvestigateTV

Prior Experience:

  • Investigative Reporter/Weekend Anchor– WWL-TV (New Orleans)
  • Worked in sports at TV stations in Greenville (MS), Montgomery (AL), and Baton Rouge (LA).
  • Syracuse University (Newhouse School) Graduate

IRE Experience:

  • Board Vice President the last two years
  • Chair of IRE Governance Committee
  • IRE Board Member since June 2016
  • Frequent panelist and mentor at IRE conferences
  • Helped secure sponsors for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 IRE conferences


  • Strong proponent of FOIA and open records.
  • Data analysis
  • Visual storytelling

Issues I’d like to address

  • COVID-19 Response
  • Strategic Planning
  • Fundraising
  • Diversity
  • Membership support

Contest Committee

Fernando Diaz

Fernando Diaz is the editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, a nonprofit investigative news organization that focuses on exposing systemic racial and socioeconomic injustice through data-driven journalism. He is an IRE member, a Lifetime member of NAHJ, and has had the privilege of working with and learning from some of the best journalists in the country. Prior to rejoining the Reporter, where he was an intern and reporter earlier in his career, he was the managing editor of digital for The San Francisco Chronicle. He has also worked at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and led Hoy Chicago for four years, which won an IRE Award during his tenure. He has previously served on the IRE contest committee.

Jessica Huseman

Jessica Huseman is a reporter for ProPublica, where she has worked since 2016. She is the lead reporter for ProPublica’s Electionland project, which helps hundreds of journalists across the country cover ballot access and elections. She is an adjunct professor of data journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a trainer for the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine Award, which honors contribution in open government.

Saleem Khan

Saleem Khan is journalist and digital news pioneer with a passion for the public interest. He leads investigative news and technology project INVSTG8.NET and is the founder of JOVRNALISM — an immersive and spatial [virtual, augmented, mixed reality] journalism consultancy.

He served the IRE Contest Committee as its sole international member in 2016 and 2017, and led the Canadian Association of Journalists as chairman and director for a decade through 2010, where he served on the jury for its investigative fellowships and awards.

Saleem has delivered training as a speaker at IRE conferences and events, helped organize and run IRE cross-border watchdog workshops in Canada since they began in 2001, the 2007 Global Investigative Journalism Conference, and dozens of national journalism conferences and local events.

He has investigated national and international security, surveillance and privacy, finance, business and technology for the New York Times, Canada’s Globe and Mail, National Post and Metro newspapers; the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), and New York-based business outlet Fast Company. Saleem launched and grew context-and-analysis journalism outlet The Conversation to 1 million readers a month; launched, managed and reported for CBC’s technology news service; was news and global technology editor at the world’s largest international newspaper, Metro; and edited for Toronto Star newspapers.

Saleem was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow at Ohio State University, a 2014 UNITY (Ford) Journalism Fellow, and has won recognition for his work from OpenNews, the African Media Initiative, Knight and Mozilla foundations.

He is an active member of IRE and the Online News Association.

Kameel Stanley

Kameel Stanley is a journalist and podcaster based in St. Louis. She’s been involved in IRE for several years and has served as a contest screener and judge. Her career has spanned different mediums and levels — from beat reporting at Florida’s biggest newspaper to hosting an award-winning public radio podcast about race and class to being the senior producer for USA TODAY’s critically acclaimed investigative podcast. She’s also a member of the Poynter Institute’s National Advisory Board and often consults and trains other journalists and podcasters. She’s a proud alum of BLACC, a training program for socially conscious young black leaders, and Central Michigan University, where she graduated from in 2008. Kameel is a Michigan native, a dog owner, a yogi, a music enthusiast and “the cool auntie.”