Investigative Reporters & Editors Awards honor IRP alums, managing editor

April 11, 2024

Clockwise from top left: Ari Sen (‘22), Brett Murphy (’16), Bernice Yeung, Robert Lewis (’08) and Stephen Hobbs (‘14).

Four alumni of our Investigative Reporting Program and its managing editor are among those honored in the 2023 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Awards. The prestigious annual contest recognizes the most outstanding watchdog journalism of the year by print, broadcast and online media.

Brett Murphy (’16) is on the team of “Friends of the Court” for ProPublica, winning in the Print/Online – Division I category. The investigation also received an IRE Medal for remarkable impact and accomplishment.

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.

Ari Sen (’22) was on a team that won for “Bleeding Out” in The Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News in the Print/Online – Division II category.

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.

Robert Lewis (’08) was named a finalist for “Hidden Hazards: Toxic Waste in California” for CalMatters in the Print/Online – Division III category.

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.

Stephen Hobbs (’14) was on a team named finalists for “The Final Fall” for the Sacramento Bee in the Print/Online – Division IV category.

Judges’ comments: This story highlighted regulatory failure and the absence of any regulation. The illustrated graphic was also great.

Bernice Yeung, managing director and managing editor of Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program was named a finalist for the Tom Renner Award (for Covering Organized Crime or Other Criminal Acts) for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)’ “Trafficking Inc.,” a collaboration among ICIJ, 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.

“The work of these dogged journalists reflects an ongoing commitment to truth and accountability against a backdrop of dwindling industry resources,” said Lily Jamali, chair of the IRE Awards contest committee in the announcement. “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. The contest covers 19 categories across media platforms and a range of market sizes. Professor Jennifer LaFleur served on the awards’ screening committee this year, along with alums Melissa Hellmann (’15), an award-winning reporter who investigates race and equity at the Guardian (’16) and Katie Licari (’22).

About the Investigative Reporting Program

The Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, led by Professor David Barstow, the first reporter to ever win four Pulitzer Prizes, is dedicated to promoting and protecting the practice of investigative reporting. Established in 2006 by veteran investigative reporter Lowell Bergman, the IRP has been a pioneer in the collaborative production of award-winning investigative reporting on multiple platforms. This innovation, now commonplace in the news business, has been recognized with the highest honors in journalism and made it a model for nonprofit journalism based at a college or university replicated around the world.

The IRP’s work has appeared on PBS Frontline, Univision, NPR and PBS NewsHour and in publications such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Mother Jones, CalMatters, The Intercept and The Atlantic, among others. Since 2007, the IRP has hosted an annual journalism conference that brings together a Who’s Who of top investigative journalists to address the critical issues confronting the field.


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