Watchdog Award

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Sponsored by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the CHC each year awards a cash prize for enterprising journalism that defends and protects everyday folks. The prize for work completed in 2013 will be presented at the Chicago Headline Club’s Lisagor Awards banquet on May 2, 2014.


The Watchdog Award honors Chicago area news reporting that calls attention to situations in which the public is being harmed or poorly served. Stories may involve public interest reporting at the local, state or national level. Stories may include coverage of the government, entities contracting with the government and public or private business.

The award is explicitly designed to encourage stories that stick up for the common person.

Subject matter should include outstanding reporting that highlights disparities in how the public is served or which highlights those public activities that disproportionately affect certain segments of the population.

Judges should consider reporting enterprise, barriers to obtaining the information, accuracy, clarity of analysis, writing style. Judges may consider civic impact and evaluate the circumstances prompting the coverage and results achieved.

The Watchdog Award is funded by a grant from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and is administered by the Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago Headline Club Foundation.

Contest Rules:

Nominations must be e-mailed by January 31, 2014, to the Chicago Headline Club/ Watchdog Award at

Reports must have been published, aired or posted between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013.

There is no entry fee. If you have questions, please call Kristen Schorsch, Watchdog Awards chair, 312-649-5259.

Entries must be the original work of journalists based in the Chicago area or who work for Chicago area news media. The contest covers Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, McHenry and Will counties in Illinois and Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties in Indiana. Nominations may be made by the author or by any other person. Nominees need not be members of the Chicago Headline Club.

All nominations must meet standards set forth in the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics.

Entries should include all related corrections, clarifications or retractions.

Each entry must include a nomination form with the name of the entry, names of nominees, dates of publication or broadcast, and an inventory of attached materials; submission contact, title, address, phone number and e-mail address; and an attached letter stating the project’s goals, obstacles and results. Please list all staff members to be named on a team entry and include any others who should be acknowledged as contributors.

Only named nominees will be awarded a cash prize to be divided among named nominees. Up to three individuals may be named on a team entry; otherwise the nomination must be made in the name of newsroom staff.

The Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago Headline Club Foundation is not responsible for errors or omissions in the nomination materials.

The Chicago Headline Club will appoint a panel of judges to solicit and review nominations and select a slate of finalists. The final award will be approved by majority vote of the Chicago Headline Club Board of Directors.


Congratulations to our previous winners:


The 2012 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Christy Gutowski and Bill Ruthhart of the Chicago Tribune for their “Children at Risk” series. Their package of stories shined a light on new, treacherous risks to one of the must vulnerable populations and led to an overhaul of the state agency charged with protecting children. 


Gary Marx and David Jackson of the Chicago Tribune where honored for work on “Fugitives from Justice” a series which documented failings in the U.S. justice system that allowed fugitives to flee the country and avoid capture.


Sam Roe and Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune were honored for work on their “Deadly Neglect” series. This Tribune investigation, uncovered a pattern of harmful care at the Alden Village North, a home for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Thirteen times in the last decade residents have died under circumstances that led to state citations for neglect or failure to investigate.



Jodi Cohen, Stacy St. Clair and Tara Malone of the Chicago Tribune were honored for their work on “Clout Goes to College.” The series of investigations uncovered how some applicants to the University of Illinois received special consideration for acceptance between 2005 and 2009, despite having sub-par qualifications.




Dan Mihalopoulos, Robert Becker, Darnell Little, Todd Lighty and Laurie Cohen of the Chicago Tribune were honored for “Neighborhoods for Sale.” The series documented the correlation between millions of dollars in political contributions from developers and zoning changes granted by Chicago aldermen.


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