Pulitzer winners donate their prize to their peers

The $10,000 prize for investigative reporting will teach more Seattle Times reporters how to uncover stories

Instead of keeping the $10,000 that accompanied their recent Pulitzer for investigative reporting, Ken Armstrong and Michael Berens decided to donate it so that other journalists could learn their prize-winning skills.

“So much public information is now maintained exclusively in a digital format,” said Berens. “Yet, so many reporters don’t know how to access and analyze it. Training is the key to unlocking stories.”

The prize money will go to The Seattle Times, Berens and Armstrong’s home paper, which in turn will use it to offer more reporters training by Investigative Reporters and Editors, a University of Missouri-based nonprofit dedicated to the improvement of investigative reporting nationwide, mainly through resources and regional training opportunities.*

“My greatest hope is that one of our staffers will be sitting in a training session, and that proverbial light bulb goes off, and the next important story is born,” Berens said.

Armstrong and Berens, both longtime IRE members, have continually volunteered to speak at its workshops and events in the past, according to Mark Horvit, IRE’s executive director.

“It means a great deal to the organization that two of our members would think highly enough of the training we provide [to donate their prize],” Horvit said. “It is designed to give journalists what they need to be better watchdogs for their community.”

Trainings include conferences and workshops where IRE volunteers and staff teach how to cover beats, dig through documents, and conduct interviews.

“We need to reinvest in our craft, and investigative reporting is one of the things that most distinguishes us while serving our community,” Armstrong said.

This was the second time in the past few years that an IRE member gave $10,000 for training—Daniel Gilbert, a reporter at Virginia’s Bristol Herald Courier, donated his Scripps Howard Award money to create a fellowship for IRE’s computer-assisted reporting boot camp.

IRE may have a gift for attracting donations, but most people who win Pulitzer money tend to keep it, according to Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler.

“[Donating the prize] is uncommon, but not unheard of. I think it’s admirable,” Gissler said.

*The piece had been altered to allow for a fuller explanation of IRE.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Olivia Smith is an intern at CJR. Tags: , ,