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of I. names prominent journalist to fill chair in investigative reporting
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courtesy University of Missouri
Houston has been named to the Knight Chair for Investigative
and Enterprise Reporting. He'll begin work on Aug.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
Brant Houston, the executive director of Investigative Reporters and
Editors Inc. (IRE), has been named to the Knight Chair for Investigative
and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois, pending approval
by the U. of I. Board of Trustees at its May 17 meeting in Chicago.
Houston, also a professor in the University of Missouri’s School
of Journalism, where IRE is based, is scheduled to start at the U. of
I. on Aug. 16. He would succeed Bill Gaines, a former Chicago Tribune
reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, who has held the Knight
Chair at Illinois since it was established in 2001.
Walt Harrington, the chair of the journalism department at Illinois, described Houston as “the most distinguished
teacher of investigative journalism in the country, and probably in
the world. He’s the best of the best, and we’re excited
and honored that he’s going to be joining us.”
Houston has been the executive director of IRE, a nonprofit organization
dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting, since
1997. During the three years prior to that, he was the managing director
of the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a joint program
of IRE and Missouri’s journalism school.
In those roles, Houston has conducted more than 250 professional workshops
and lectures on investigative and computer-assisted reporting for U.S.
and foreign journalists, along with his teaching as a professor in the
journalism school. He is the author of “Computer-Assisted Reporting:
A Practical Guide,” and one of three co-authors of “The
Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.”
Houston also chairs the Council of National Journalism Organizations.
Prior to joining IRE and Missouri, Houston worked as an investigative
reporter for 17 years at several newspapers, including The Hartford
Courant (1985-94) and The Kansas City Star (1981-85).
At the Star, he was part of a staff that won a Pulitzer Prize for general
news reporting for its coverage of a walkway collapse in 1981 at the
city’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, an accident that killed more than
100 people. In 1983 he won a Headliner Award for his investigation into
misconduct by Kansas City area building inspectors.
Houston also has received numerous regional awards for investigative
stories on a broad range of topics, among them waste and fraud in the
Small Business Administration, injustice in a state bail system and
mistreatment of veterans in a state hospital.
The Illinois journalism program prides itself on its emphasis on strong
public affairs reporting, Harrington said. The hiring of Houston “certainly
reinforces and enhances that tradition in an absolutely solid fashion,”
he said. “We also believe that he’ll leverage his wide network
of influence and connections in the field to enhance the role and place
of the Knight Chair at Illinois.”
The Knight Chair, funded
by a $1.5 million endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,
is one of 22 endowed chairs established nationwide by the foundation
since 1990. The Illinois chair is the only one that focuses on investigative
and enterprise reporting.