Watchdog Award


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 2017 will be presented at the Chicago Headline Club’s Lisagor Awards banquet in May 2018.

About the Watchdog Award

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 12, 2018, to Watchdog Awards Chair Jason Martin at

Reports must have been published, aired or posted between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017.
Entries must be the original work of journalists based in Illinois or who work for Illinois news media, or who work in Indiana’s Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties. 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 are 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.

About last year’s winners

The 2016 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Jamie Kalven for his story “Code of Silence,” released by The Intercept in October 2016. It is a 20,000-word, four-part investigation about two Chicago police officers who uncovered a massive criminal enterprise within the department.

More previous winners