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IRE members donate Pulitzer Prize money for training

Michael Berens and Ken Armstrong both had extraordinary resumes before winning the Pulitzer Prize last week. Each of the reporters for The Seattle Times had produced investigations that won a long list of prizes, including multiple IRE Awards. The work honored by the Pulitzer judges -- "Methadone and the Politics of Pain" -- had already been honored many times.

So the fact that Berens and Armstrong won wasn't a surprise. What they're doing with the prize money, however, is extraordinary. They've dedicated the $10,000 prize to pay for IRE training for fellow staffers in Seattle. 

Armstrong said the decision was easy. "We just wanted to find a way to do something for the paper and something for IRE," he said. "IRE, more than any other organization you can think of, is the group that people turn to when they want to learn this craft and they want to be inspired. And to me, those two things are equally important."

Both Armstrong and Berens are longtime IRE members who have donated countless hours to speaking at regional and national events, contributing tipsheets and writing for the IRE Journal. They spoke at a regional IRE Watchdog Workshop only three days before winning the Pulitzer.
Berens said the training he's received through IRE has been invaluable and has helped many journalists gain the skills they need to hold the powerful accountable. "It really is the firestarter," he said.
IRE Board President Manny Garcia said the decision to pledge the prize money for investigative training is in character for both journalists.
"Mike and Ken have always been unselfish with their time and talent," Garcia said. "They both exemplify what IRE is all about: equipping and training journalists world-wide to produce important investigative work. It speaks to their character and the quality news organization that is The Seattle Times."
Berens and Armstrong are the second major prizewinners in the past few years who have dedicated their award money to IRE training. Daniel Gilbert donated the money he won in the Scripps Howard Awards to create an endowed fellowship that sends journalists who cover rural communities to IRE's Computer-Assisted Reporting boot camp. (The Scripps Howard Foundation subsequently donated an additional $10,000).
"It's humbling," said IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit. "It also helps reinforce the importance of the training IRE provides and the value our members place in it."
Berens and Armstrong will both be speaking at the IRE Conference in Boston this June, where they and other IRE Award winners will be honored. 
Both have shared their expertise with IRE members many times. See a list of Berens' tip sheets here. Armstrong's tip sheets are available here
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