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.
"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