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Announcing the 2023 IRE Award winners & finalists

"In a difficult year for journalism, the winners of the 2023 IRE Awards give us hope,” said Lily Jamali, chair of the IRE Awards contest committee. “The work of these dogged journalists reflects an ongoing commitment to truth and accountability against a backdrop of dwindling industry resources. Entries showed the powerful impact that can come from combining investigative reporting techniques with vivid storytelling. Our colleagues at times put themselves at great risk. They nevertheless got the story and helped bring about change.”

This year’s winners were selected from more than 450 entries. Since 1979, the IRE Awards have recognized the most outstanding watchdog journalism of the year. The 2023 contest covers 19 categories across media platforms and a range of market sizes. The top award is the IRE Medal, given to winners of the FOI Award and Tom Renner Award each year. Contest committees may designate IRE Medals for additional work deserving special recognition for remarkable impact and accomplishment. Three newsrooms received IRE Medals this year. 

Note: Contest entry materials from IRE Award winners and finalists will be made available in the IRE Resource Center. You must be logged in with your IRE membership to access the IRE Resource Center. 

Correction: The April 5, 2024, announcement of the 2023 IRE Award winners and finalists was updated on April 12, 2024, to include a second winner for the Print/Online - Division III category. The winning entry from Tampa Bay Times was accidentally omitted from the original post. We regret the error.

2023 IRE Award Winners & Finalists

FOI Award 

Winner (and IRE Medal recipient): "Secret Canada," The Globe and Mail

By Tom Cardoso, Robyn Doolittle, Carys Mills, Mahima Singh and Ming Wong

Judges’ comments: This sweeping report from The Globe and Mail is the one of the most ambitious public records projects ever published. Its bold combination of investigative analysis and public education reconnected a nation with the democratic ideals enshrined in its freedom of information law.

  • "Transparency Failures Sow Distrust in City Marred by Corruption," Hearst Connecticut Media Group. By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, Joshua Eaton and Brian Lockhart
    Judges’ comments: This hale Hearst team took on one America’s most recalcitrant local governments and won a landmark victory for transparency in their home state.
  • "Cannabis Card Game," Spotlight PA. By Ed Mahon, Sarah Hutchins, Stephen Kearse, Jeff Rummel and Matt Dempsey
    Judges’ comments: News organizations suing the government to liberate public records, that’s nothing new. But the government suing news organizations to keep them secret? That’s an outrage. Three cheers for the Spotlight PA team that stared down the challenge in court.

Tom Renner Award (for Covering Organized Crime or Other Criminal Acts)

Winner (and IRE Medal recipient): "America, Global Gun Pusher," Bloomberg News

By Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, Jessica Brice, Monte Reel, Eric Fan, Natalie Obiko Pearson, Michael Smith, Chris Cannon and Henry Baker

Judges’ comments: This international investigation revealed the U.S. government profits from and promotes the sale of American guns around the world, threatening political stability in emerging democracies, fueling gang violence and undermining its own stated foreign policy. After its publication, the Biden administration halted the export of most guns for 90 days and ordered a review of the government’s support of the U.S. gun industry. The team spent a year accumulating and deciphering data from a number of countries, including confidential case files from Latin America. This series incorporated especially striking informational graphics and network-quality video in addition to clear, vivid storytelling to keep the judges absorbed from beginning to end. 

  • "Peddling Death: Fentanyl in Mexican Pharmacies," Los Angeles Times. By Connor Sheets, Keri Blakinger and Brittny Mejia
    Judges’ comments: Team members risked personal safety and arrest traveling to Mexico to find out why American tourists were dying from medications they bought from local pharmacies. They tested pills on site and in American labs and found nearly two-thirds were fake and dozens were laced with fentanyl and methamphetamine. They created a database to meticulously track every pill they bought. As a result of the series, Mexican authorities shut down pharmacies and Los Angeles County and the State Department issued health alerts.
  • "Trafficking Inc.," International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. By ICIJ staff and freelancers in collaboration with Guardian US, Reuters, The New Yorker, The Investigative Reporting Program at Berkeley Journalism, NBC News, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
    Judges’ comments: The revelations of this series could only have come from the remarkable consortium of international journalism organizations that collaborated to report it. With only scant data available from governments and tight-lipped corporations, the team spent months recruiting victims who unveiled trafficking schemes that led to their exploitation by some of the most famous brand names in the world. The judges were impressed by the scope of this investigation and the team’s ability to obtain sensitive documents and interviews, sometimes at personal risk. 

Print/Online - Division I

Winner (and IRE Medal recipient): "Friends of the Court," ProPublica

By Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Brett Murphy, Alex Mierjeski and Kirsten Berg

Judges’ comments: In this extraordinary series, ProPublica reporters unearthed the most significant ethics scandal to hit the modern-day Supreme Court, an institution that has long shrouded itself in a veil of secrecy. The team showed the hypocrisy that lurked beneath that veil in a manner that has proven unassailable despite many failed attempts to challenge their reporting. This ambitious project, revealing how certain sitting justices benefitted from the largesse of wealthy tycoons, sparked a national conversation on judicial reform and prompted the adoption of the court’s first-ever ethics code. From building their own database of Alaska fishing licenses to tracking down yacht workers scattered around the globe, “Friends of the Court” offers a masterclass in investigative journalism. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote more than a century ago, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” ProPublica’s reporters showed just how impactful sunlight can be.

  • "Denied by AI: How Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Off Care for Seniors," STAT. By Casey Ross and Bob Herman
    Judges’ comments: In their penetrating investigation, STAT documented how health insurers deployed algorithms to deprive patients of much-needed care. This tremendous effort exposed an opaque profit-driven strategy that puts American lives at risk. Reporters gave voice to victims and their families in this series that resulted in far-reaching reforms. Judges noted the reporters went beyond explaining the harm done — they demanded answers about the system that enabled that harm, and got them.
  • "Peddling Death: Fentanyl in Mexican Pharmacies," Los Angeles Times. By Connor Sheets, Keri Blakinger and Brittny Mejia
    Judges’ comments: This relentless investigation revealed that Mexican pharmacies have been selling counterfeit pills tainted with fentanyl and meth. Reporters followed their impressive field reporting effort with searing analysis that held officials in both Mexico and the U.S. to account and prompted action.
  • "Mexican Military, Corrupted," The New York Times. By Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman
    Judges’ comments: The Mexican government has long been known to use surveillance technology to spy on citizens and journalists trying to reveal corruption. But this sweeping investigation — undertaken by reporters on opposite sides of the globe — added a new dimension to our understanding of this activity, with overwhelming documentary evidence that took great effort to decode and contextualize.

Print/Online - Division II

Winner: "Bleeding Out," The Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News 

By Lauren Caruba, Ari Sen and Smiley Pool

Judges’ comments: This was a comprehensive investigation into a national health crisis hiding in plain sight: the tens of thousands of Americans who bleed to death from potentially survivable injuries each year. The team reviewed more than 300 medical journal articles and did exhaustive data work to create a map showing the distance from any address to the closest trauma center, highlighting the stark disparities between rural and urban communities. The judges were impressed by the in-depth reporting, clear writing, compelling presentation and focus on solutions to this pressing issue.

  • "In Harm's Way," Star Tribune. By Jeffrey Meitrodt, Jessie Van Berkel, Aaron Lavinsky, MaryJo Webster and Chris Serres
    Judges’ comments: A great example of how to follow up on previous work to hold government agencies to account for their failed promises. Almost a decade after Minnesota officials vowed to improve the state’s child welfare system following an earlier Star Tribune investigation, the newspaper followed up and found dozens of kids who had died after being returned to homes where they had experienced abuse.
  • "Teacher Misconduct on Long Island," Newsday. By Jim Baumbach, Joie Tyrrell and Dandan Zou
    Judges’ comments: Newsday exposed the systemic failures in New York’s teacher accountability system that incentivized school systems to quietly dismiss teachers accused of serious misconduct — including sexual and physical abuse — with confidential settlements rather than hold them publicly accountable. The judges said the series was “infuriating to read” and had “a significant outrage factor.”

Print/Online - Division III (two winners)

Winner: "The Bitter End," The Arizona Republic

By Caitlin McGlade, Sahana Jayaraman and Melina Walling

Judges’ comments: Nursing home abuse is sadly a familiar story, afflicting vulnerable seniors at the hands of mostly low-paid, under-supervised staff. But less familiar is deadly violence against seniors, particularly those with dementia, at the hands of other residents. The Arizona Republic unearthed a disturbing pattern of resident-on-resident harm, with seniors suffering physical and sexual assault at the hands of other seniors, chiefly as a result of neglect, poor staff training and high turnover. The reporting team filed more than 40 public records requests for police calls to 400 facilities, built a database to track cases and calls, then wrote a Python script to scrape the state’s citation system. The result was an impressive package that highlighted a little-known problem that showed state policy protected secrets instead of seniors, benefiting an underregulated industry.

Winner: “Deadly Dose,” Tampa Bay Times

By Helen Freund, Sam Ogozalek, Langston Taylor, Hannah Critchfield and Kirby Wilson

Judges’ comments: This compelling investigation left virtually no stone unturned in its exploration of kratom, a substance that has been linked to "legal morphine" despite its risks. Members of the team showed admirable initiative as they exposed the industry's supply chain, marketing tactics and lobbying efforts in states across the country. In addition to its exhaustive efforts involved in tracking kratom overdoses, the Tampa Bay Times centered families affected by promoters of this unregulated substance, and furthered the public's understanding of an emerging health threat.

  • "Deadly Dose," Kansas City Star. By Laura Bauer, Judy L. Thomas, Tammy Ljungblad, Neil Nakahodo and Susan Merriam
    Judges’ comments: This package showed how the scourge of fentanyl is claiming dozens of babies and toddlers, and showed how the deaths have gone largely unnoticed.
  • "Hidden Hazards: Toxic Waste in California," CalMatters. By Robert Lewis, Jeremia Kimelman, Miguel Gutierrez Jr. and Wendy Fry
    Judges’ comments: In recent years, nearly half of California’s hazardous waste has left the Golden State, much of it bound for states with weaker regulatory laws. This impressive package drove home how a huge industry has carved out disturbing workarounds of California’s strict environmental laws.

Print/Online - Division IV

Winner: "Ghost Tags: Inside New York City’s Black Market for Temporary License Plates," Streetsblog

By Jesse Coburn

Judges’ comments: This entry had one of the best lines in all of the entries and is the gold standard of reporting on this issue. The story did the police’s job for them, handing them their investigation on a silver platter. This story showed impact, had striking visuals and is relatable to people across the country. The more the story went on, the better it got, and it left no stone unturned.


Video - Division I

Winner: "War Crimes Investigations: Uprooted," The Kyiv Independent

By Olesia Bida, Vitalii Havura, Kostiantyn Nechyporenko, Liza Pyrozhkova and Yevheniia Motorevska

Judges’ comments: This was a searing and comprehensive piece of reporting that unmasked the Russian government’s abduction and relocation of Ukrainian children, making an emotional impact far greater than a list of names and numbers or scattered news reports ever could. Judges were also impressed by the team’s use of open-source intelligence and strong accountability interviews with the specific officials responsible for taking children from their homes and families — all work that will likely stand as an important testament once the war is over.

  • "Putin's Spies in Sweden," Mission Investigate, SVT 1. By Ali Fegan, Maria Georgieva, Magnus Svenungsson, Kalle Segerbäck and Axel Gordh Humlesjo
    Judges’ comments: This incredibly well-produced piece brought a spy-thriller to life while using vintage reporting skills and stakeouts. The international reporting team proved that a country’s citizens deserve further scrutiny into their country’s security choices and dealings with foreign actors. 
  • "The Truth Behind the Experimental Therapy that Kids Say Starts with ‘Legalized Kidnapping,'" Business Insider. By Olivia Gentile, Erica Berenstein, Mark Adam Miller and Esther Kaplan
    Judges’ comments: The reporting team did important work centering the controversial diagnosis in its history and context, with revelations that can have ramifications beyond California. The story also treated the children at the heart of these intense custody battles with respect, using their own words and arresting videos to provide the agency often taken from them. 

Video - Division II (two winners)

Winner: "Against All Enemies," NBC5 / KXAS-TV Dallas-Fort Worth

By Scott Friedman, Eva Parks, Bonnie Moon, Edward Ayala and Michael Ortiz

Judges’ comments: This team relentlessly pursued public records and scoured social media about the training an Oath Keeper veteran was providing hundreds of Texas law enforcement officers: that their authority is above that of the U.S. Supreme Court and that county sheriffs are more powerful than the FBI. KXAS discovered the officers earned continuing education credit for the classes and that the Texas department overseeing the program didn’t even know the curriculum. The team took the familiar story of the Oath Keepers and Jan. 6 much deeper and broader. Their work resulted in state investigations and policy changes. It is a testament to the value of persistent follow-up on the stories we think we already know. 

Winner: "Coffee City Police," KHOU-TV

By Jeremy Rogalski, John Gibson and Jennifer Cobb

Judges’ comments: This captivating series demonstrates the success of laser focus on a local story. Cross-referencing thousands of records revealed many of the officers in a tiny town, including the chief, worked lucrative part-time jobs hours away and that half had been fired, demoted, or discharged from their previous jobs. KHOU’s reporting kept the judges hooked. After it ran, the city council shut down the police department and filed charges against seven former officers. 

  • "In Plane Sight," WANF Atlanta News First. By Brendan Keefe and Bailey Williams
    Judges’ comments: The reporter wore a variety of disguises, used a 360-degree camera and carried fake money to find evidence that DEA agents at the Atlanta airport were stopping passengers, searching their carry-on bags for cash and seizing their money for no apparent reason. Those ground tactics coupled with the reporter’s success in revealing redacted data on public records led to congressional action aimed at changing DEA authority and practice. 
  • "Undetermined," KUSA-TV. By Chris Vanderveen, Chris Hansen and Jenna Bourne
    Judges’ comments: “Undetermined” exposed the history of a questionable psychological diagnosis that police officers have used disproportionately on black men to explain their deaths while in custody. KUSA/Tegna journalists examined hard-won data sets and combined them with disturbing body-cam video to expose a national problem and achieve impressive results.

Video - Division III

Winner: "The Thin Blurred Line," WSMV-TV

By Jeremy Finley, Meredith Whittemore, Jason Finley and Jeff Bishop

Judges’ comments: This dogged series of reports by Jeremy Finley and the WSMV team exposed how Tennessee officials repeatedly have allowed unlicensed staffers to wear badges, carry guns and falsely present themselves as police officers. Their diligent and direct work made an impact.

  • "Hate Comes to Main Street," WTVF-TV. By Phil Williams, Kevin Wisniewski, Bryan Staples, Bob Stinnett and Catherine Steward
    Judges’ comments: This stunning run of scoops garnered nationwide attention and let the rest of America in on something already known to every Nashville politician: No one escapes Phil Williams.
  • "The Raid on Marion County Record Newspaper," KSHB 41. Jessica McMaster, Chris Morrison, Chase Lucas, Lisa McCormick and Ryan Takeo
    Judges’ comments: The story of a raid on a Kansas newspaper became a national outrage, but KSHB persisted after the national spotlight faded. The station’s relentless pursuit of the truth uncovered lies in the police chief’s affidavit justifying the search warrant, ultimately leading to his suspension. The judges were impressed by the reporter’s push for transparency and fight for public records.

Video - Division IV

Winner: "Side Hustle," WLBT-TV

By C.J. LeMaster, Brenden Davis and Karlos Sanders

Judges’ comments: This well-presented series unearthed brazen corruption by two public officials — a mayor and a police chief — who pulled in other taxpayer-funded salaries while supposedly doing their day jobs. This investigation relied on meticulous documentation and spun their findings into a compelling story that got results. 


  • "The Hurricane Ian Evacuation," WFTX-TV / E.W. Scripps Co. By staff of WFTX-TV
    Judges’ comments: In the aftermath of a deadly hurricane, this reporting team's painstaking hunt for documents and incisive interviews revealed that officials in Lee County, Florida, failed to follow their own evacuation plan. The work marshaled various types of expertise to tell a story of how lives might have been saved.
  • "Dangerous Chemicals in Compost," Montana PBS / KUFM-TV. By Anna Rau, John Twiggs, Breanna McCabe and Joe Lesar
    Judges’ comments: As awareness of forever chemicals grows, Montana PBS showed impressive initiative by doing its own PFAS testing for "Dangerous Chemicals in Compost." With engaging characters and compelling reveals, this entry broke new ground on a topic of national consequence.

Audio - Large

Winner: "Unguarded," WLRN News

By Daniel Rivero, Joshua Ceballos, Jessica Bakeman, Sergio Bustos and Matheus Sanchez

Judges’ comments: Reporters uncovered a scheme where a government-funded nonprofit entrusted to care for adults deemed incapacitated by the courts was selling their homes for below-market value to companies connected to the Miami city attorney, which were then flipping them for a profit. The series had an immediate impact, with the county launching an investigation into the program and Miami firing the city attorney.

  • "Exposed: Cover-up at Columbia University," Wondery Media and ProPublica. By Laura Beil, Bianca Fortis, George Lavender, Jacklyn Kim and Julia Lowrie Henderson
    Judges’ comments: A deeply reported and well-told audio series about an OB-GYN who sexually abused hundreds of patients while being protected by one of the most prestigious institutions in the country — Columbia University. The stories centered the voices of survivors and helped push Columbia to formally apologize for the first time.

Audio - Small

Winner: "Invasive and Incomplete: How Flood Cleanup Left Eastern Kentucky Feeling Violated and Vulnerable," Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

By Jared Bennett and Justin Hicks

Judges’ comments: This project tackled an important topic, how eastern Kentucky — one of the poorest regions in a state with a high overall poverty level — dealt with the cleanup of a devastating rainstorm and flood. Reporters tracked down leads about problems with debris cleanup contractors, including families that had their home demolished without their permission. The reporting team found that wealthy and powerful contractors paid off workers and secured inflated government contracts. Reporters spent a year poring over thousands of debris tickets and invoices to discover a pattern of abusive contractor behavior, which has since led to multiple lawsuits. 


Investigations Triggered by Breaking News

Winner: "Trail of Incompetence: The Unjustified Raid on a Kansas Newsroom," KSHB 41

By Jessica McMaster, Chris Morrison, Chase Lucas, Jake Weller and Lisa McCormick

Judges’ comments: The story of a raid on a Kansas newspaper became a national outrage, but KSHB persisted after the national spotlight faded. The station’s relentless pursuit of the truth uncovered lies in the police chief’s affidavit justifying the search warrant, ultimately leading to his suspension. The judges were impressed by the reporter’s push for transparency and fight for public records.

  • "Tragedy in Lewiston," WGME-TV. By Dan Lampariello and Jack Amrock
    Judges’ comments: In the wake of the largest mass shooting in Maine history, reporters in Lewiston held the sheriff’s office accountable for their failure to follow through on warning signs about the shooter. The reporter’s sit-down interview with the sheriff was a master class in holding public officials accountable and getting them to answer for their mistakes.

Sports Investigations

Winner: "Boxer Pensions on the Ropes," Los Angeles Times

By Melody Gutierrez

Judges’ comments: "Boxer Pensions on the Ropes" shows how at its best, investigative journalism can both reveal injustices and lead to change. These stories exposed multiple failures by administrators of a pension program envisioned as a safety net for boxers who fought in California. Decades later, not only was the program underfunded, many boxers that were supposed to benefit had no idea it existed. With poignant portraits sprinkled throughout, the series drove home the systemic failure to support these fighters when their careers are over. The judges were also impressed with the tenacity involved in obtaining key information not initially released in public records. The effort ultimately ensured that dozens of checks made it to people who needed them.

  • "Mismanagement of the Year," The Arizona Republic. By Jason Wolf
    Judges’ comments: By combining in-depth interviews with analysis of thousands of tax returns and other documents, these stories offer a searing look at the systemic waste and mismanagement in the world of nonprofits and charities headed by NFL players. Taking on America’s most-profitable sport is not easy; this infuriating investigation rose to the challenge.
  • "Game, Set, Fix," The Washington Post. By Kevin Sieff
    Judges’ comments: This stunning series casts the rarefied world of tennis in harsh light, showing how the financial struggles of many players in the sport can be exploited by organized criminals engaged in gambling across borders. The narrative reads like a thriller, but judges were also impressed by the data work and sourcing that underpins these stories, which were republished around the world.

Student - Large

Winner: "Gambling on Campus," Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

By Julian Basena, Josh Caplan, Shane Connuck, Sam Draddy, Victoria Ifatusin, Kevin McNulty, Ross O'Keefe, Derek Ohringer, Shannon Scovel, Sydnee Singletary, Blake Townsend, Hanna Zakharenko and Matthew Wynn

Judges’ comments: An impressive effort. The broad survey helped show the breadth of the investigation. This is a system story holding the universities accountable. The story also identified shortfalls, which allow universities to skirt accountability.


Student - Small

Winner: "‘Our Community Has Become a Commodity’: How Princeton’s Historically Black Community is Fading," The Daily Princetonian

By Charlie Roth

Judges’ comments: This story’s combination of complex data journalism and good shoe-leather reporting made this ambitious piece easily stand out. The judges also appreciated the way the reporter presented the data in a clear and transparent way that didn’t distract from the story’s impact. The moving on-the-ground testimonies collected from the real people at the heart of the data tied everything together. 



Winner: "Inflamed: Abandonment, Heroism, and Outrage in Wine Country's Deadliest Firestorm"

By Anne E. Belden and Paul Gullixson with contributing author/editor Lauren A. Spates

Judge’s comments: The book combined strong investigative journalism with captivating literary journalism, engaging the reader with strong storytelling. The authors included vivid descriptions of the subjects’ lives that helped the reader feel invested in the subjects. The authors also used local journalists to help tell the story and placed us at the center of some of the intense moments, like when a resident admonished her adult daughter for “dropping the f-bomb” as fire loomed outside and they were trying to escape. The book lets journalism do the talking.

  • "These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs — and Wrecks — America." By Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner
    Judge’s comments: Amazing investigative work about a powerful but largely unknown segment of the American financial world. The authors took time to explain how private equity operates and why it matters. Many of the anecdotes could have been an entire book and the faceless victims could even be another book.

Longform Journalism in Video

Winner: “The Holly”

By Julian Rubinstein with support from Rocky Mountain PBS

Judge’s comments: This documentary provided a raw, rare window into the politics of gang-controlled neighborhoods. The filmmaker’s ability to build trust with reluctant or fearful sources so viewers could hear their insight was a home run. It was old-school street reporting at its best. Judges noted that “The Holly” avoided simplifying the roots of violent crime into good character versus bad character categories. It was well-shot, well-told and memorable.

  • “LISTEN: ESPN Investigates Lauren McCluskey’s Murder.” By Nicole Noren, T.J. Quinn, William Weinbaum, Rayna Banks and Chris Buckle
    Judge’s comments: The ESPN investigative team was tenacious in vacuuming public records, exposing the endless ways this heartbreaking tragedy could have been prevented. The documentary was visual, contained powerful storytelling, and left viewers both sad and mad. It was every parent’s worst nightmare laid out in chapters. "LISTEN" is a shining example of how investigative journalism can hold police systems accountable without exploiting victims of violence.

Longform Journalism in Audio

Winner: "Murder in Boston Podcast," The Boston Globe 

By Adrian Walker, Evan Allen, Kristin Nelson, Elizabeth Koh, Andrew Ryan and Brendan McCarthy

Judges’ comments: This project revealed shocking new information about the 1989 crime, uncovered powerful audio and turned its investigative attention to the experience of the people of Mission Hill, the African-American neighborhood that was slandered by Charles Stuart and subject to a campaign of abuse by the Boston police department in the months after Stuart murdered his wife and lied to the police saying "a black male" had shot her. That threadbare description was enough to drive Boston city government, the city's white population and — crucially — the news media into a frenzy. In beautifully edited and finely crafted episodes, "Murder in Boston" does more than excellent investigative work and powerful storytelling. It expands the range of what can be considered documentary texts, taking seriously the abuse suffered by the Black men and their families caught in Boston's dragnet and positioning the sensational crime in the history of racism in Boston and beyond. "Murder in Boston" turns its scrutiny not only on the police department and mayor's office, but on the Globe itself and asks probing questions about why so many in the city and the newsroom were willing to run with Charles Stuart's racist lie. It's a fine work of investigative journalism in audio, but it is also more than the sum of its parts, a work of conscience, sociology and reckoning.

  • “The Uncertain Hour: The Welfare to Work Industrial Complex,” Marketplace from American Public Media. By Krissy Clark, Peter Balonon-Rosen, Caitlin Esch, Grace Rubin and Michael May with staff and APM Research Lab (including Elisabeth Gawthrop and Ben Clary)
    Judges’ comments: In classic investigative method, Marketplace's “The Uncertain Hour” team dove deep into public documents, contracts and audits to lay bare the absurdities and injustices of privatized welfare reform, a generation after Bill Clinton announced "the end of welfare as we know it." In compelling episodes, Marketplace followed fully drawn characters battling to survive in a world of perverse incentives and Kafka-esque regulations, where the companies meant to help poor people get rich and the poor stay poor, paying attention to a story too often overlooked and calling into question the legitimacy and purpose of the privatized safety net. 
  • “We Don't Talk about Leonard,” ProPublica and WNYC’s On the Media. By Andrea Bernstein, Ilya Marritz and Andy Kroll
    Judges’ comments: In this potboiler of a podcast, ProPublica pulls back the veil on the machinations of power in the modern conservative movement making clear the tremendous, undemocratic and unaccountable influence of Leonard Leo. Through the Federalist Society and a network of nonprofits and coalitions, Leo has shaped the nation's politics for a generation, placing a cadre of deeply ideological anti-government forces throughout the judiciary and other branches of government. 
  • “Smokescreen: Betrayal on the Bayou,” Sony Music Entertainment. By Faimon Roberts, Jim Mustian, Odelia Rubin, Anne Lim and Catherine Saint Louis
    Judges’ comments: Erstwhile rival reporters teamed up to empty their notebooks (and make use of federal investigations, county records, DEA audits and skillful interviews) in this dramatic series of larger-than-life yarns about the exploits, crimes and contagion of a rogue DEA agent who operated for years under the nose of supervisors in the swampy morass of the drug war in Louisiana and East Texas.

Judges and screeners

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 were not allowed to 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:

  • Lily Jamali (Marketplace), chair
  • Jonah Newman (Injustice Watch), vice chair
  • John Russell (Indianapolis Business Journal)
  • Walter Smith-Randolph (CBS News New York)
  • Nicole Foy (ProPublica)
  • Valerie Hyman (consultant)
  • Ben Welsh (Reuters) 

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

  • Nicole Foy — Print Division 1, Print Division 3, Audio Large, Audio Small 
  • John Russell — Sports Investigations
  • Ben Welsh — Tom Renner Award

First-round screeners by category: 

  • Tom Renner Award — Cheryl W. Thompson and Steve Reilly
  • FOI Award — Marisa Kwiatkowski and Kendall Taggart
  • Print/Online - Division I — Arlene Martinez, Rhonda Prast, Vince Gonzales, Grace Asiegbu, Mark Lagerkvist and Shirsho Dasgupta
  • Print/Online - Division II — Brendan McCarthy and Amy DiPierro
  • Print/Online - Division III — Katie Licari, Mollie Simon, James Grimaldi and Jenifer McKim 
  • Print/Online - Division IV — Jennifer Palmer and Melissa Hellmann
  • Video - Division I — Josh Hinkle, Mallory Sofastaii, Kristin Hussey and Erin Smith
  • Video - Division II — Scott Zamost and Nia Wong
  • Video - Division III — A.J. Lagoe and Ana Lastra
  • Video - Division IV — Katie Wilcox and Gwyneth Doland
  • Audio - Large — Anjanette Delgado and Kameel Stanley 
  • Audio - Small — Nadine Sebai and Teresa Elena Frontado
  • Investigations Triggered by Breaking News — Dave Manoucheri and Shawn McIntosh
  • Sports Investigations — Ryan Thedwall and Christina Jedra
  • Student - Large — Angel Kastanis and Daniel Connolly
  • Student - Small — Jen LaFleur and Andrew Ford
  • Book — Megan Luther, Darla Cameron and Russell Contreras
  • Longform Journalism in Video — Chris Halsne and Lauren Mucciolo
  • Longform Journalism in Audio — Molly Longman, Ted Oberg and Eileen Markey

Thank you, judges and screeners!

About Investigative Reporters and Editors

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 Doug Meigs,

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