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IRE Executive Director Fuentes inducted into NAHJ Hall of Fame

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists inducted IRE Executive Director Diana Fuentes and three other journalists into the NAHJ Hall of Fame in a ceremony on Aug. 5, 2022, in Las Vegas.

The NAHJ Hall of Fame honors journalists who have served as pioneers and leaders in the journalism industry, mentored future generations of Latinx journalists and journalists of color in newsrooms nationwide, and changed how communities are represented in the mainstream media.

Diana Fuentes and Rebecca Aguilar are inducted into the NAHJ Hall of Fame by NAHJ President Nora López.
2022 NAHJ Hall of Fame inductees Diana Fuentes and Rebecca Aguilar receive their medals from NAHJ President Nora López in an induction ceremony Aug. 5, 2022, in Las Vegas. Photos by Dayana Villanueva for Latino Reporter.

With more than 35 years of experience in journalism, Fuentes said she’s very fulfilled by her career, having covered major issues in the United States and Mexico, including illegal adoption rings on the border and undocumented migrants dealing with property sale scams.

“If people are suffering, you can report on the suffering and figure out why it’s happening,” she said, explaining the importance of the journalist in society. “We are reporting on the truth.”

Francisco Vara-Orta, a longtime mentee of Fuentes who currently serves as IRE Director of Diversity & Inclusion, said that her support was pivotal to him as a young Latinx, proudly Tejano journalist working at the Laredo Morning Times.

“She told me, ‘Francisco you have what it takes to go national someday,’” he said. “She was the first person in my life to say you have what it takes and you have something special.”

Since April 2021, Fuentes has served as the IRE’s executive director and is the first person of color and first woman to permanently hold this position. In this role, Fuentes oversees training in investigative and data analysis techniques and the development of conferences and programs like NICAR. She is also involved in efforts to improve the diversity of the organization and its leadership.

IRE member Rebecca Aguilar was also inducted into the NAHJ Hall of Fame this year. She is president of the Society of Professional Journalists, the first woman of color to hold that position since the organization’s founding in 1909.

Other 2022 inductees included Robert Hernandez, who teaches the practice of digital journalism through emerging technologies at USC Annenberg, and Steve Gonzales, a photojournalist for the Houston Chronicle who died in June 2022 and was honored posthumously.

This story was modified from one written by Anna Guaracao for Latino Reporter. For more details on each honoree, check out the original article: Meet the new NAHJ Hall of Fame inductees

The late Tom Torok, a pioneering data journalist whose sessions at NICAR and IRE conferences were among the most popular for years, will be one of the inaugural nominees inducted into the new IRE Ring of Honor next year.

A fundraising initiative that supports fellowships for investigative journalists, the Ring of Honor celebrates current and past IRE members who have made a significant contribution to the organization and to the field of investigative journalism.

Torok fills both requirements with ease.

He was a journalist for more than 40 years, working for seven newspapers, including The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. At The New York Times, he created and managed the paper’s data journalism team, which helped bring home eight Pulitzer Prizes during his 13-year tenure. Previously, he was a columnist and reporter for 18 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was part of four teams that were Pulitzer-Prize finalists.

"Tom represents the best in the IRE and NICAR spirit, not only excelling at his own work, but he tirelessly helped others, generously teaching and sharing with others."

Andy Lehren, NBC News

After he retired in 2013, he focused on teaching across the United States and internationally, especially working with Ukrainian journalists.

During his career, he developed innovative data analysis programs that he freely shared with journalists everywhere and was an enthusiastic teacher with a lively sense of humor to the end. He died March 6, 2022, after a brief illness.

Torok was nominated by Andy Lehren of NBC News.

"Tom represents the best in the IRE and NICAR spirit, not only excelling at his own work, but he tirelessly helped others, generously teaching and sharing with others," Lehren said in making the nomination.

After a member is nominated for the honor, the IRE Board of Directors reviews the nomination. If the nomination is approved, friends and family launch a fundraising campaign in the nominee's honor. A minimum of $2,500 in donations must be raised for a nominee to be inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Donors in support of Torok's nomination already have exceeded the minimum, but donations still are accepted.

The induction ceremony will take place at the awards luncheon at the IRE conference scheduled for June 22-25, 2023, in Orlando, Florida.

Tax-deductible donations to the Ring of Honor memorialize the legacy of these influential mentors and newsroom leaders while financially supporting the next generation of investigative journalists. Fellowships allow qualified recipients to access IRE benefits, such as attending conferences, participating in training and networking with other investigative journalists.

To nominate someone for the IRE Ring of Honor, fill out a short nomination form available under the "Donate" link on the IRE website.

For questions, send an email to Anna Lopez at anna@ire.org.

The late David Donald, an award-winning data editor and IRE training director, will be inducted into the new IRE Ring of Honor next year.

The Ring of Honor is a fundraising initiative that supports fellowships for investigative journalists. It celebrates current and past IRE members who have made significant contributions to the organization and to the field of investigative journalism.

"David could put anyone at ease and make them believe that, no matter how complicated something seemed, they could handle it."

Mark Horvit, former IRE executive director

Donald was known for his gentle wit and for imparting a sense of confidence about data journalism in his students and colleagues alike. He died in December 2016 after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 64.

After his time with IRE as a trainer, Donald became a data editor at the Center for Public Integrity and later at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He also worked as a research and project editor at the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. During his career, he was a data journalist in residence at American University's School of Communication and taught at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and at Savannah State University. He was known as an "evangelist" of computer-assisted reporting.

"David could put anyone at ease and make them believe that, no matter how complicated something seemed, they could handle it," said Mark Horvit, former IRE executive director.

Donald's nomination was presented by Jennifer LaFleur of the Center for Public Integrity, and was supported by a large group known as "Friends of D Squared."

After a member is nominated for the honor, the IRE Board of Directors reviews the nomination. If the nomination is approved, friends and family launch a fundraising campaign in the nominee's honor. A minimum of $2,500 in donations must be raised for a nominee to be inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Donors in support of Donald's nomination already have exceeded the minimum, but donations are still being accepted.

The induction ceremony will take place at the awards luncheon at the next IRE conference set for June 22-25, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.

Tax-deductible donations to the Ring of Honor memorialize the legacy of these influential mentors and newsroom leaders while financially supporting the next generation of investigative journalists. Fellowships allow qualified recipients to access IRE benefits, such as attending conferences, participating in training and networking with other investigative journalists.

To nominate someone for the IRE Ring of Honor, fill out a short nomination form available under the "Donate" link on the IRE website.

For questions, send an email to Anna Lopez at anna@ire.org.

IRE Board President Mark Walker of the New York Times was reelected to the IRE Board of Directors on Saturday, along with six new board members: Lam Thuy Vo, independent journalist; Simone Weichselbaum, NBC News; Mark Greenblatt, Scripps Washington Bureau; Aaron Kessler, The Associated Press; Darla Cameron, Texas Tribune; and Kate Howard, Reveal.

The board will meet to elect officers within 30 days.

New members of the Contest Committee are Elaine Tassy of Colorado Public Radio and Lily Jamali of Marketplace.

Full election results for the Board of Directors:

RankCandidateVotesPercent
1Mark Walker53851.93
2Lam Thuy Vo53651.74
3Simone Weichselbaum52050.19
4Mark Greenblatt47545.85
5Aaron Kessler46845.17
6Darla Cameron46344.69
7Kate Howard45744.11
8Kiran Chawla43141.60
9Todd Wallack41840.35
10Fernando Diaz40038.61
11John Kelly39337.93
12Kyle Jones35834.56
13Mark J. Rochester31330.21

Full election results for the Contest Committee:

RankCandidateVotesPercent
1Elaine Tassy24128.62
2Lily Jamali21525.53
3Jenifer McKim20624.47
4Riley Gutiérrez McDermid14116.75
5Andrew Ford12815.20
6Mark Lagerkvist12715.08
7Hyuntaek Lee12014.25
8Maija Jenson8810.45
9John Russell728.55
10George Lavender526.18
11Charles Lane455.34
12Mike Soraghan445.23
13Ted Sickler293.44
14Keith Kohn232.73

Steadfast unwillingness to release police bodycam footage in 2018 has earned the City of Huntsville, Alabama and its police department the 2022 Golden Padlock Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. The award honors the most secretive government agencies in the U.S.

Robert Cribb presents the finalists and winner of the Golden Padlock award during the IRE Awards Luncheon at IRE22.
Photo by Doug Meigs.

It would take three years, a murder trial, dogged media requests and a judicial order for the public to see the taxpayer-funded footage showing the fatal shooting of a suicidal man who called police on himself. When police arrived at the man’s home in 2018, he was sitting in his living room with what turned out to be a flare gun against his temple. A young officer entered the house, raised a shotgun and told the suicidal man to lower the gun from his head.

Seconds later, the officer shot the man in the face. The city refused to release the tape, reassuring the public it vindicated the officer. Three years later, after the city devoted $125,000 of public money to the officer’s criminal defense, the jury in the murder trial saw the footage and filed a guilty verdict. A judge finally released the footage to reporters in August 2021.

“In a year that featured a startling array of nominations detailing egregious acts of secrecy by governments across the country, this case stood out,” said Robert Cribb, chair of the IRE’s Golden Padlock committee which reviewed nominations from across the country. “This footage, created in the public interest, provided crucial details for a murder case. The intransigence showed by the city and police undermined the public’s right to know in ways that earned this honor.”

The committee also named four other finalists that exemplified the techniques of secrecy and obfuscation the award seeks to highlight.

The winner of the 2022 Golden Padlock Award was announced during the awards luncheon at the IRE22 conference in Denver. IRE invited Huntsville Mayor Thomas Battle and former Chief of Police Mark McMurray to Denver to accept the award, but received no response.

IRE's Don Bolles Medal for 2022 has been awarded to two Russian investigative journalists whose commitment to exposing corruption by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his regime led to them being forced to flee their homes to avoid imprisonment.

Roman Badanin accepted the Don Bolles Medal during the IRE Awards Luncheon at IRE22. Photo by Jason Buch.

This year's recipients are Roman Anin, founder and editor of iStories, and Roman Badanin, founder and editor of Proekt. Both were subjected to raids of their homes in 2021, eventually forced to leave Russia in order to continue their investigative journalism.

The Don Bolles Medal recognizes investigative journalists who have exhibited extraordinary courage in standing up against intimidation or efforts to suppress the truth about matters of public importance. 

"Putin has not only attacked Ukraine, he has also declared war against journalism and the truth," said IRE President Mark Walker. "In recognizing Roman Anin and Roman Badanin, IRE stands with them and other Russian investigative journalists who have been targeted by the Putin regime. Journalism is not a crime, and journalists should never be treated as criminals."

In April 2021, Federal Security Service agents raided the home of Roman Anin, as well as the editorial offices of iStories ("Important Stories") in apparent retaliation for the news outlet's reporting on the inexplicable wealth of Igor Sechin, head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft. Anin was interrogated about iStories' use of Instagram photos showing Sechin's ex-wife aboard a yacht valued at up to $180 million.

Anin has also worked on cross-border investigations with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) since 2009.

The investigative journalist was out of the country on vacation when he got word that it was not safe for him to return to Russia.

"Some sources told me that there was a big risk if I came back, that they would arrest me on the border because this criminal case, the searches were just the pretext for a broader investigation against me," Anin said.

In June 2021, authorities raided the homes of Roman Badanin and other members of his Proekt team as they prepared to publish an investigation into corruption allegations surrounding Russia's interior minister.

Proekt became the first independent news organization to be labeled by the Russian government as "undesirable," forcing Badanin to seek refuge in the U.S.

Anin's iStories received that same branding earlier this year.

"To be undesirable in Russia is to be public enemy," Badanin said. "Any kind of activity of an undesirable organization on the ground in Russia is completely banned, and every person who collaborates with an undesirable organization in any form can go to prison – sometimes immediately."

Both men are now continuing their investigative reporting on Russia from outside the country.

Former IRE Board member Phil Williams, who has spearheaded the nomination process for the Don Bolles Medal, said the selection of Anin and Badanin is a statement of solidarity with them and other Russian investigative journalists.

"Putin is known for his 'long arm' reputation for silencing his critics," Williams said. "With the Don Bolles Medal, we send the signal that the world is watching."

The Don Bolles Medal was created in 2017 in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Arizona Project, an effort led by IRE to finish the work of Don Bolles. The Arizona Republic investigative reporter was killed in 1976 by a car bomb in retaliation for his reporting.

Bolles’ death came a few days before the first national IRE conference in Indianapolis, where the veteran reporter had been scheduled to speak on a panel. At the time, Bolles had been investigating allegations of land fraud involving prominent politicians and individuals with ties to organized crime.

After his murder, nearly 40 journalists from across the country descended on Arizona to complete his investigation. News organizations across the country published their findings.

Their message: Efforts to suppress the truth will be met by even greater efforts from the rest of the journalism community to tell it.

IRE is adding its voice to the growing movement to persuade The Pulitzer Prizes to make participating in an annual staff diversity survey a condition of seeking journalism’s highest honor.

The IRE Board of Directors unanimously approved signing a letter asking Pulitzer officials to begin the requirement in 2024. The letter has been signed by more than 175 journalism entities.

Most U.S. news organizations have refused to participate in the News Leaders Association survey year after year, showing a glaring lack of transparency about industry diversity that is particularly troubling in this time of racial reckoning.

"Investigative journalism purports to be about accountability and shedding light on inequities. Yet that lens of accountability is rarely turned inward within journalism," said IRE Vice President Kat Stafford. "Change is uncomfortable. But, frankly, this isn’t an issue any of us should be neutral on."

IRE believes, as do the other groups who have signed the letter, that requiring news organizations to participate in a diversity survey before they can enter the Pulitzer contest would be a strong incentive to provide the data necessary to effect real change.

Pulitzer Prizes officials have said their board members may consider it at summer meetings.

For more information, read this Poynter.org story.

IRE is proud to present two showcase panel discussions during the IRE22 conference in Denver, tackling important themes of leadership, cultural reckoning, and the power – and challenge – of newsrooms working together. Both panels will take place Friday, June 24, livestreamed for virtual attendees and recorded for later viewing.

"Kicking Glass" features a powerhouse panel of women in command of some of the most successful newsrooms, brands and investigative teams today.

What were their paths up the ladder to the leadership positions they hold today, and what are the biggest challenges they face now? How do these accomplished journalists of color guide their teams as they cover reckonings outside the building – while examining reckonings inside it? And how do you encourage culture shift among teams without inviting the criticism that you’re more activist than journalist?

Dawn E. Garcia, director of the JSK Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University, will moderate a discussion among these panelists:

"Kicking Glass" will take place from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. MDT in room Colorado B.

"Banding together for truth," will take us behind the scenes of how 16 competing newsrooms teamed up to fight for access to videos of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

How did the media coalition that sued the government come to be, and has it set a precedent for future First Amendment battles? Hear from some of the esteemed journalists who took up the cause as they discuss the power of video to combat the denial of fact and address the question: Are we better together?

Pierre Thomas, chief justice correspondent for ABC News, will moderate a discussion among these panelists:

"Banding together for truth" is sponsored by ABC News and will take place from 5 - 6:15 p.m. MDT in room Colorado B.

Investigative Reporters and Editors has named its finalists for the 2022 Golden Padlock Award honoring the most secretive public agency or official in the U.S.

Drawn from a competitive crop of nominations across the country, five finalists were chosen for their extraordinary commitment to undermining the public’s right to know through delays, denials, court challenges and even surreptitious monitoring of journalists. Among the finalists is a government agency honored for hiding details of how parolees left unmonitored committed offenses including rape and murder. Another attempted to impose a 55-year timeframe for the release of COVID-19 drug approval documents. A third has denied documents from a “transparent” review of state election protocols ordered by a judge to be made public. A fourth targeted university journalism faculty investigating a major philanthropic donation to their school. Another fought for three years to deny public access to police bodycam footage in a fatal shooting that triggered a murder trial.

"The strict internal codes of silence at work in these cases are breathtaking," said Golden Padlock committee chair Robert Cribb. "These finalists offer a compelling reminder of the essential role investigative reporters play in unearthing hidden truths and revealing how public officials paid with public money to uphold the public trust can find their strongest motivation in self interest."

The finalists for the 2022 Golden Padlock Award are:

  1. The Arizona Senate for keeping secret thousands of documents related to a review of the state’s ballots and voting machines that courts have ruled should be public. The Arizona Republic requested and then sued for texts and emails behind an audit of voting machines in Arizona's Maricopa County to understand the details surrounding an election review conducted in secret. The courts have told the Arizona Senate and its contractor that the records must be released and even imposed a fine of $50,000 a day until the records are made public. Rather than paying or providing the records, the fines have now mounted to nearly $4 million.
  2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration for trickling out its response to a public records request at a rate that would take roughly 55 years to complete. A group of academics and scientists filed a request last August for records pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA denied a request for expedited processing, prompting a lawsuit. The FDA later proposed providing 500 pages of records a month, a rate that would have taken decades to fulfill. A federal judge rejected that proposal, saying the freedom of information request was “of paramount public importance.” He ordered the FDA to initially release 12,000 pages and then produce the remaining documents at a rate of 55,000 pages per month.
  3. Utah's Department of Corrections for stonewalling public access to supervision records of violent probationers and parolees, including wrongfully redacting vast swaths of public documents. KUTV found evidence the department lost track of more than 300 parolees every month, some of whom committed serious crimes including rape and murder. Over more than a year and a half, the agency denied more than a dozen formal government records requests. While some records did come through mediation, they were heavily redacted. A First Amendment attorney who helped draft Utah’s public records law concluded that a "significant" amount of the redactions had been wrongfully withheld from the public. The agency said the reporting subjected them to “public hatred and humiliation” and has continued to fight against further disclosures. The station has now taken its fight for disclosure to the state level.
  4. The City of Huntsville, Alabama, and the Huntsville Police Department for their steadfast resolve in refusing to release police bodycam footage showing an officer fatally shooting a suicidal man who had called police on himself. It would take three years, a murder trial, dogged media requests and a judicial order for the public to see the taxpayer-funded footage. When police arrived at the man’s home in 2018, he was sitting in his living room with what turned out to be a flare gun against his temple. A young officer entered the house, raised a shotgun and told the suicidal man to lower the gun from his head. Seconds later, the officer shot the man in the face. The city refused to release the tape, reassuring the public it vindicated the officer. Three years later, after the city devoted $125,000 of public money to the officer’s criminal defense, the jury in the murder trial saw the footage and filed a guilty verdict. A judge finally released the footage to reporters in August 2021.
  5. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a pattern of secrecy that includes paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight cases involving open meetings law violations and the disclosure of documents detailing campus sexual assault cases. This year, the university targeted a coalition of its own journalism faculty after members filed formal requests seeking the university’s donor agreement with Walter Hussman, an Arkansas media magnate who gave $25 million to the journalism school and who also lobbied against the university’s hiring of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The university rejected efforts to release the donor agreement for months, and after it was leaked to a reporter, officials launched an investigation into the source of the leak. As the school was renamed in Hussman’s honor and faculty members pushed for details, records released earlier this year showed the university attempted to access data on the hard drives of faculty without their knowledge. The names of those journalism faculty members, and the rationale for accessing their computers, was redacted.

The winner of the 2022 Golden Padlock Award will be announced during the awards luncheon at the IRE22 conference on Saturday, June 25, in Denver.

Investigative Reporters & Editors is establishing the IRE Ring of Honor, a new fundraising initiative celebrating members who have made a significant contribution to the organization and to investigative journalism.

Nominations to the Ring of Honor can be made in tribute to current or retired IRE members or in memoriam to deceased members.

It’s a great way for individuals or a group of people to thank a friend or colleague for their service while also paying it forward by raising money for IRE fellowships.

Here’s how it works: To nominate a person to the Ring of Honor, fill out a short nomination form available under the "Donate" link on the IRE website. The nomination requires approval of the IRE Board of Directors.

If the nomination is approved, the nominating person or group must raise a minimum of $2,500 in the name of the person to be honored. Once that minimum is raised, IRE will add the person’s name to the Ring of Honor and memorialize it on the IRE website and in other IRE materials. The names of the new honorees will be announced at the next IRE conference.

Donors still will be able to add to the fund in the honoree’s name after they have been inducted to help grow the IRE Ring of Honor fellowship fund.

The fund for fellowships will allow qualified recipients to access IRE benefits, such as attending conferences, participating in training and networking with other investigative journalists.

For questions, contact Anna Lopez at anna@ire.org.

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