Cart 0 $0.00
IRE favicon

Announcing the 2022 IRE Award winners & finalists

“The winners of the 2022 IRE Awards reflect the undeniable tenacity of journalists working day in and day out to hold powerful people and systems accountable,” said Barbara Rodriguez, chair of the IRE Awards contest committee. “Through a combination of narrative storytelling, data and compelling visuals, many of the entries this year put a spotlight on the lives of everyday people and showed the public the high stakes of policy choices on those lives. This year we also saw newsrooms fight hard to uncover information that some officials attempted to keep hidden. There were also efforts to keep journalists safe in dangerous conditions — and honor their legacy posthumously. Congratulations to the winners and finalists.”

This year’s winners were selected from more than 400 entries. The awards, given since 1979, recognize the most outstanding watchdog journalism of the year. The contest covers 19 categories across media platforms and a range of market sizes.

Note: You must be logged in with your IRE membership to access stories through the resource center.

Among the winners and finalists, the committee gives an IRE Special Citation to the Las Vegas Review-Journal for protecting a slain journalist’s sources.

Judges’ comments: For its steadfast efforts to protect the sources of investigative reporter Jeff German, The Las Vegas Review-Journal receives an IRE Special Citation. Soon after German’s shocking slaying in September 2022, the management and staff of the Review-Journal began taking legal action, including a court order, to stop law enforcement and others from searching the reporter’s personal devices that could reveal confidential sources and put them at risk of retaliation. As part of an ongoing legal battle, the Review-Journal has valiantly argued in court filings that the information kept on German’s devices are protected under Nevada’s shield law, the First Amendment and the state constitution. For their efforts to protect press freedom that has ramifications beyond their newsroom, IRE honors the Las Vegas Review-Journal with a special citation.

An IRE Special Citation is also awarded to a coalition of media organizations for their Uvalde coverage

For collaborative efforts to relentlessly seek public records after one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, a coalition of media organizations is awarded an IRE Special Citation. Following the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022, government officials refused to provide the public with critical information, including about the law enforcement response. In the face of obfuscation, a group of journalists, lawyers and families launched an extraordinary effort to obtain information. To date, they have filed hundreds of requests for information and filed lawsuits to force the state to release records. Collectively, this work — which led to the release of surveillance footage and body camera recordings, among other records — has greatly influenced the public's perception of the Uvalde shooting, challenged preconceptions and revealed crucial truths. Their significant collaboration stands as a testament to the potential when newsrooms covering stories of key public significance eschew competition and work together, including with victims seeking the truth. IRE is proud to offer them a special citation.

2022 IRE Award Winners & Finalists

FOI Award (IRE Medal)

Foreign Servants,” The Washington Post, Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones

Judges’ comments: Judges commended this piece for its adherence to the but/for component of investigative reporting: but for the successful use of FOIA in the reporting from beginning to end, the facts this story uncovered would not have come to light. It’s a revelatory investigation that gave a lot of context as well as implications for national security. Whitlock and Jones were able to show information the average person could likely never otherwise have come across.

  • "The Uvalde school shooting and the fight for transparency," The Texas Tribune, ProPublica, The Washington Post
    Judges' comments: In the face of repeated denials from public entities on more than 100 requests for information, this team of journalists worked other sources to find data that helped uncover why the law enforcement response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was such a failure.
  • "Invisible Schools," The Seattle Times and ProPublica
    Judges’ comments: The filing of 80+ public records requests showed an exhaustive search for the truth. Judges commend the work that resulted in a proposal to expand oversight by the state.

Tom Renner Award (IRE Medal)

"Putin's Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes," The Associated Press and FRONTLINE, Erika Kinetz, Tom Jennings, Sasha Stashevskiy, Annie Wong, Vasilisa Stepanenko, Michael Biesecker, Beatrice DuPuy, Sarah El Deeb

With contributors: Sharon Lynch, Carla Borras, Anthony DeLorenzo, Dan Nolan, Richard Lardner, Helen Wieffering, Larry Fenn, Jason Dearen, Priyanka Boghani, Aasma Mojiz, Miles Alvord, Joshua Goodman, Juliet Linderman, Taras Lazer, Maddie Kornfield, Adam Pemble, Allen Breed, Solamiia Hera, Janine Graham

Judges’ comments: Extraordinary reporting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that painstakingly documented visual evidence of war crimes and told heartbreaking stories about those impacted by those crimes. Under dangerous conditions, this team of journalists created an interactive database and provided on-the-ground reporting in real-time, often from witnesses to these atrocities. The coverage, both poignant and emotional, shed light on likely violations of international humanitarian law and the laws of war.

  • "Cocaine Express: How global shipping gave new life to the drug trade," Bloomberg News
    Judges' comments: A thorough investigation into a cocaine trafficking boom that’s become intertwined with the ocean shipping industry, and how the industry has avoided serious penalties.
  • "How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels," and "The Globetrotting Con Man and Suspected Spy Who Met With President Trump," ProPublica
    Judges’ comments: A revealing examination of a new system of money laundering in the Americas involving Chinese organized crime, Latin American drug cartels, and Chinese officials that is raising important geopolitical questions.

Print/Online (written word) Division I:

"The Price Kids Pay," Chicago Tribune and ProPublica, Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica, Armando L. Sanchez, Chicago Tribune

Judges’ comments: Even though state law forbids schools from fining students for misbehavior, towns and cities across Illinois are levying monetary penalties for hallway fights, truancy, vaping and smoking, and other minor offenses. Worse, justice is uneven, Black students were twice as likely to be ticketed as their white peers. ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune documented these findings by creating a unique database built on hundreds of records requests and painstaking analysis, as well as shoe leather reporting and creative storytelling techniques.

  • "Death Sentence," STAT
    Judges' comments: STAT used public records requests to pry data from reluctant prison officials. Records showed that to save money, states are refusing to provide treatment to prisoners suffering from Hepatitis C. The story documents the unwillingness to provide treatment to even a fraction of the patients in its care, even when ordered by courts. Instead, prisoners are left to suffer painful, debilitating symptoms; some eventually die from a disease that could be treated with a single – albeit expensive – pill a day.
  • "Untold," ESPN
    Judges' comments: In a compelling, hard-to-put-down investigation, ESPN chronicles an infuriating story of how a former Penn State football player was mostly allowed to get away with rape and other sexual assaults. The story also shows that football coach Joe Paterno might well have been aware of the player’s crimes but helped cover them up to protect his program’s reputation.

Print/Online (written word) Division II (two winners)

"Child deaths at John Muir Health," San Francisco Chronicle, Matthias Gafni, Cynthia Dizikes, Dan Kopf

Judges’ comments: This is a stunning investigation into a California hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit that peeled back layers of an often complicated medical world to reveal serious concerns about the treatment of sick children. By merging hard-to-obtain data with emotional storytelling, journalists told heartbreaking stories of what happened to incredibly sick children and their families at the hands of an ill-equipped hospital.

"Broken Homes," San Francisco Chronicle, Joaquin Palomino, Trisha Thadani, Scott Strazzante, Lisa Gartner

Judges' comments: Inoperable elevators, rodent infestations, and a patchwork process for evictions. These are among the findings of an investigation that showed glaring systemic failings in how officials in San Francisco shelter its most vulnerable residents in dilapidated hotels. By compiling digestible data for the public and highlighting the difficult stories of impacted residents, journalists renewed attention to how the city is addressing the housing crisis.

  • "Medical Parole Got Them Out Of State Prison. Now They're In A Decertified Nursing Home," KPCC
    Judges' comments: A shocking look into how California correctional officials moved severely ill and disabled medical parole patients from around the state to a single facility in Los Angeles with numerous patient care violations. The coverage raised important questions about how a state treats people who are incarcerated and aging.
  • "Innocence Sold," South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    Judges' comments: A startling report on child sex trafficking in Florida, and how gaps in the state’s foster care system, legal system, and hotel industry create more conditions for abuse.

Print/Online (written word) Division III (two winners)

"MIA: Crisis in the Ranks," The Philadelphia Inquirer, David Gambacorta, Barbara Laker, William Bender

Judges’ comments: This investigation was both compelling and outright infuriating, exposing how a growing number of Philadelphia police officers abused a state disability benefit to take leave while the city experienced record levels of gun violence. Reporters combined data analysis with on-the-ground reporting to produce work that had an unmistakable impact. One judge called it “the best kind of investigative reporting” – striking so much fear in the people who need to be held to account that they immediately change their ways.

"Dangerous Dwellings," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Alan Judd, Willoughby Mariano, Johnny Edwards, Jennifer Peebles, Eric Fan, Lois Norder

Judges' comments: This searing exposé gave voice to thousands of residents - mostly people of color - stuck living in horrific conditions at hundreds of persistently dangerous apartment complexes in Atlanta. The scale and scope of this investigation were truly impressive, revealing how state law makes it almost impossible to hold predatory owners to account while they rake in massive federal subsidies. Reporters showed how private equity and other investors are drawn to a business model that has painfully real impacts on how people live.


"Eavesdropping in Maine Jails," The Maine Monitor
Judges' comments: An exhaustive investigation revealed a disturbing violation of state law and federal constitutional rights. The Maine Monitor punched above its weight with this series of stories.

Print/Online (written word) Division IV

"Big Poultry," The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer, Gavin Off, Adam Wagner, Ames Alexander

Judges’ comments: This series shows in graphic detail the human and environmental cost of the rapid expansion of the poultry industry in North Carolina. The articles also show that the state intentionally keeps its citizens in the dark and fails to protect them from powerful companies that control every aspect of poultry farming. Caught in the middle of this are the contract farmers who are taking on massive debts to build and equip their farms, only to learn that the companies can take away or limit their access to income almost at a whim. In addition to strong reporting based on interviews and limited documentation, the journalists created a unique map showing the locations of virtually every poultry operation in the state, despite state laws that shield their locations.


"Security for Sale," The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer
Judges' comments: Judges praised the fact that while this story is very much localized, it’s about a topic with national importance and implications. The investigation found that, in the space of a decade, corporate landlords had gone from owning nearly zero houses in North Carolina to owning more than 40,000. Superb mapping work combined with human narratives made the story both readable and compelling.

Video Division I

"101 East - Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves," Al Jazeera English, Mary Ann Jolley, David Boyle, Shaun Turton

Judges’ comments: This is shocking reporting by a team that put themselves at extraordinary risk to get the story. ‘Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves’ exposed large-scale trafficking, torture, and enslavement inside the country’s massive scam industry, which is connected to the highest levels of government. This piece stood out because of the scope of the issues it raises related to human trafficking. The breadth of the reporting effort was also a key differentiator along with the widespread ramifications and far-reaching impact.


"Racism for Sale," BBC Africa Eye and BBC Eye
Judges' comments: Compelling storytelling and reporting on an incredibly important topic. The reporter went to impressive lengths for this story.

Video Division II

"Left for Dead: Hit, Run, and Ignored," NBC Chicago, Phil Rogers, Alex Maragos, Stefan Holt, Shelby Bremer, Katy Smyser, Nathan Halder, Lauren Stauffer, Akemi Harrison, Frank Whittaker, Kevin Cross, Courtney Copenhagen, Brian Moore, Reed Seiler, Calvin Tyler

Judges’ comments: Incredibly, this investigation found that more than 100 hit-and-run auto accidents occur in Chicago every day, and only a few of them are solved, even when police have evidence that could identify the culprits. The reporters effectively blended data, public records, interviews, and video to tell a compelling story. The station devoted enormous resources to this investigation and persevered despite the Chicago Police Department’s absolute refusal to cooperate.

  • "The Sixth," WANF-TV
    Judges' comments: This investigation documents difficulties in public defender programs. Too little money and too few attorneys mean that the requirement of providing lawyers for indigent defendants too often goes unfulfilled. As a result, some accused people languish in jail far longer than they should, while others are released when they are possibly guilty of crimes.
  • "DCFS Survivors," WBBM-TV
    Judges' comments: WBBM found that the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services often turns a blind eye to child abuse in foster homes, including physical and sexual abuse. The station was able to pry data from the department showing that 90 percent of complaints about abuse were deemed “unfounded.”

Video Division III

"Disabled & Denied," WBFF-TV, Carolyn Peirce, Chris Papst, Dwayne Myers, Jed Gamber, Ray Rogowski

Judges’ comments: A moving series of stories that demands answers about the quality of education provided by Baltimore City Schools to some students with disabilities. The team exposed multiple examples of outright corruption, with contractors and the school system both stealing money by falsifying reports, all while hurting kids in the process. The stories combined touching personal narratives with dogged reporting and showed the profound impact that can come from sticking with a story.

  • "Fallout," WKRC-TV
    Judges' comments: This was a fine example of persistent work on a highly complicated issue. It’s also a model of local journalism, depending on local sourcing in an undercovered community to expose a problem with international implications.
  • "Outside the Office" WVUE-TV
    Judges' comments: This story has receipts! The data-gathering was impressive but used the power of video to show the implications behind the numbers.
  • "Revealed," WTVF-TV
    Judges' comments: A masterful use of video, giving viewers in Tennessee a front-row seat to the abuses of power taking place in their state legislature. A well-told modern civics lesson with real impact!

Video Division IV

"53 Days - Chuck's Story," WSAZ-TV, Kristen Bentley, Sarah Sager, Joseph Payton, Jay Melvin

Judges’ comments: Superb reporting on how the shortcomings of a West Virginia hospital had deadly consequences for an elderly man with dementia. By obtaining crucial video footage on the day the man disappeared, journalists provided a visual and heartbreaking story to audiences that showed what went wrong. The team was also relentless in seeking answers from top state officials.

Audio Large

"Death By Policy: Crisis in the Arizona Desert," Futuro Media Group, Julieta Martinelli, Roxanne Scott, Maria Hinojosa, Peniley Ramirez, Mitra Bonshahi

Judges’ comments: This story stood out for its on-the-ground reporting. This moving piece lived up to its title by showing how funneling migrants through environmentally dangerous areas led to their deaths. The team highlighted the border patrol’s attempt to take credit for the work that volunteers are doing. Embedding with the volunteer group in the desert was great reporting under physically difficult conditions.


"Missing Justice," CBS News
Judges' comments: This was an effective podcast entry for several reasons: it covers an underreported topic while making good use of audio; it examines the shortcomings in the justice system; and calls for congressional accountability.

Audio Small

"Overlooked," KCUR Studios and NPR’s Midwest Newsroom, Peggy Lowe, Steve Vockrodt, Dan Margolies, Mackenzie Martin, Suzanne Hogan, CJ Janovy, Lisa Rodriguez, Gabe Rosenberg

Judges’ comments: This is incredibly compelling storytelling on an important and long-overlooked story. The suspenseful storytelling puts the audience in the moment and left us wanting more. Several of the judges mentioned an eagerness to keep listening to discover how this white male police officer exploited Black women in the community – and how he was allowed to do it for decades. This was far and away one of the best entries in the competition!

  • "The imbalanced scales of immigration justice: The uphill battle for Cameroonian asylum seekers in Louisiana and Mississippi," Gulf States Newsroom
    Judges' comments: Great reporting from a small newsroom on an angle of the immigration story we hadn’t heard. Good use of a strong character to tell the story.
  • "Missouri knew of contamination in Springfield’s groundwater decades before anyone told residents," St. Louis Public Radio and NPR's Midwest Newsroom
    Judges' comments: This reporting included powerful investigative findings on an important issue and uncovered the scope of a problem that went further back than the public knew.

Student Large

"For two families, a Southern University education meant everything. Then came tragedy." LSU Manship News Service, Brittany Dunn, Drew Hawkins, Claire Sullivan, Shelly Kleinpeter, Annalise Vidrine, Adrian Dubose, Maria Pham, Allison Allsop, Alex Tirado

Judges' comments: Based on historical records and interviews, this is a sobering account of a deadly encounter between police and students during campus protests at Southern University in 1972, an encounter that left two young Black men dead and their families searching for answers. After 50 years, the questions and the stain remain. The students did an excellent job in recounting this painful event on their campus and its aftermath.

  • "Gaslit," Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism
    Judges' comments: Using satellite imagery and other information, this investigation shows that the release of methane gas – by practices known as venting and flaring – from oil and natural gas wells is much larger than industry and government estimates.
  • "Mega Billions: The great lottery wealth transfer," Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism and Boston University
    Judges' comments: By creatively using mobile phone information and other data, this project shows how state lotteries exploit mostly lower-income people.

Student Small

"Stanford president's research under investigation," The Stanford Daily, Theo Baker

Judges’ comments: The investigation into allegations of research misconduct by the president of Stanford sparked headlines across the country. That this series of stories was spearheaded by the campus paper would have been impressive on its own. But the 17-year-old, first-quarter freshman behind it deserves extra kudos for pursuing this explosive investigation despite alleged warnings by administration sources that his target could seek retaliation. A doggedly reported investigation with immediate impact, and a masterclass in holding the powerful to account.

IRE Award for Sports Investigations

"UC Berkeley swimmers allege coach Teri McKeever bullied and verbally abused them for years," Orange County Register, Scott Reid

Judges’ comments: The Orange County Register painstakingly illuminated the shocking actions of UC Berkeley swim coach, Teri McKeever, an international icon in her field. Her abuses are recorded in revealing on-the-record interviews with frightened, reluctant sources, some of whom spoke about suicidal thoughts and mental health consequences. The paper encountered considerable resistance from the university and other official sources. Ultimately, however, the coach lost her job.

  • "Black Out," The Washington Post
    Judges' comments: Unfortunately, the basic fact that there are few Black head coaches in the NFL is well-known. This investigation takes that knowledge to a new level, demonstrating with data and compelling interviews just how difficult it is for a Black coach to get the top job and how incredibly hard it is for them to stay there.
  • "Title IX: Falling short at 50," USA TODAY
    Judges' comments: This deeply reported account shows the failure of a 50-year-old federal law intended to bring more gender equity to college sports. The paper and its partners created a unique database showing how universities skirt the law by failing to spend enough money on women’s sports: by miscounting women athletes and denying scholarship opportunities to women. Reporters also exposed the failures of the responsible federal agency to enforce the law.

Investigations Triggered by Breaking News

"Massacre in Uvalde," San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle

Judges’ comments: In the immediate aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this team of journalists sprang into action, delivering fast, accurate, and often exclusive breaking news. As multiple newsrooms simultaneously worked to cover one of the biggest stories of the year, staff from the Express-News and the Chronicle stood out for providing readers with an emerging timeline of what happened during the shooting, raising questions early on about law enforcement’s response.


"Russian Asset Tracker," Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
Judges' comments: In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, governments around the world imposed sanctions on many of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s enablers, who hired armies of lawyers to hide their wealth in secretive bank accounts and offshore structures. Within four weeks of the start of the war, OCCRP and their partners compiled the largest public listing of verified assets that had taken years for oligarchs to hide.


"When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm," Walt Bogdanich, Michael Forsythe

Judges' comments: Using tens of thousands of documents and hundreds of interviews, Bogdanich and Forsythe expose the many tentacles of consulting conglomerate McKinsey & Company. Before the journalists' work, little was known about McKinsey's clients that range from pharmaceutical companies to federal drug regulators to foreign governments. The dynamic storytelling kept us turning the page to find whose mess McKinsey was involved in next.

Longform Journalism in Video:

"The Price of Care: Taken by the State," ABC10, Andie Judson, Gonzalo Magaña, Rory Ward, Tyler Horst, Sabrina Sanchez, Mike Bunnell, Xavier Uriarte

Judges' comments: In a series of five reports, ABC10 Sacramento focused on abuses and neglect of disabled persons by the California state bureaucracy that controls their lives through conservatorships. Through the stories of victims, reporter Andie Judson detailed a system that ignored their interests and isolated them from their families. The reports were part of a two-year investigation by ABC10 widely credited with ensuing reform legislation.

Longform Journalism in Audio (two winners):

"After Ayotzinapa," Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, National Security Archive, Adonde Media, Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Kate Doyle, Taki Telonidis, Martina Castro

Judges' comments: An extraordinary exploration of the forced disappearances of college students in Mexico filled with inside information, public records, critical relationships with sources, clear and compelling storytelling, archive audio, creative approaches, significant results, and a disturbing window into corruption in Mexico fueled by drug cartels. “After Ayotzinapa” is a jaw-dropping chronicle of a horrendous crime and the lengths that Mexican authorities went to cover it up. Through journalistic persistence that spanned years and borders, “After Ayotzinapa” lands like a gut punch, holding powerful Mexican institutions and political figures to account.

"Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong," American Public Media, Emily Hanford, Christopher Peak, Catherine Winter, Chris Julin, Emily Haavik 

Judges' comments: American Public Media presents an extraordinary example of investigative reporting at its best, with extensive use of documents, data, studies, sourcing, accountability, archive audio, and even a survey. The writing is clear and compelling, despite a complicated subject, and the use of archive audio accentuates the storytelling and gives the findings additional heft. The investigation addresses a subject critical to all parents: how do children learn to read, why are so many having difficulty, and why is the system that has been widely accepted failing to do the job for many? The result is a story focused on flaws in the public school system, and deeper questions about the operation and values of schools, and of private companies profiting from education. Emily Hanford’s reporting and presentation are testaments to journalistic and audio storytelling excellence.


Contest entries are screened and judged by IRE members who are working journalists. Work that includes a significant role by any member of the IRE Contest Committee or the IRE Board may not be entered in the contest. Work in which board members did not play a significant editorial role can be entered. First-round screeners may not review categories in which their news organization could compete.

Serving on the Contest Committee represents a significant sacrifice on the part of the individual contest judge — and often an entire newsroom — that may have done outstanding investigative work.

This year’s contest judges:

  • Barbara Rodriguez, The 19th* - Chair
  • Wendell Cochran, retired
  • Lily Jamali, Marketplace
  • Elaine Tassy, Colorado Public Radio
  • Julie Watts, CBS Sacramento

To ensure fairness and transparency, some judges were not present during deliberations in specific categories due to potential conflicts of interest. They were:

  • Lily Jamali - Print Division 2

IRE, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit professional organization dedicated to training and supporting journalists who pursue investigative stories. IRE also operates the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), a joint program with the Missouri School of Journalism.

For questions or concerns about the IRE Awards please contact Lauren Grandestaff,

109 Lee Hills Hall, Missouri School of Journalism   |   221 S. Eighth St., Columbia, MO 65201   |   573-882-2042   |   |   Privacy Policy
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram
My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.