Announcing Winner of the 2024 ION Awards for Investigative and Original News Reporting

(Full list of professional and student winners starting in 2022 here)

2024 Winners Announcement:

This announcement can be copied or republished in its entirety.

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the Sharyl Attkisson 2024 Student ION Awards for Investigative and Original News Reporting.

Congratulations to Silas Morgan of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

Morgan won for two stories about Florida lawmakers that had residences outside of the district they represented. The stories focused on Rep. Bruce Antone and Rep. Mike Redondo.

Prize: $3,000.00

Silas Morgan

2023 Winners Announcement:

We are pleased to announce three winners of the 2023 ION Awards for Investigative and Original News reporting, sponsored by Sharyl Attkisson. Congratulations to Alexandria Jacobson, our First Prize winner. Congratulations also to the two finalists, Dana Kennedy, and Breanna Morello, winners of ION Achievement Awards. This year, ION Honorable Mentions recognize original reporting by Rav Arora, Tracy Beanz, and Brooke Conrad. We warmly thank all reporters and editors who submitted nominations; we appreciate your dedication and devotion to journalism.  

ION Award Winner:

Alexandria Jacobson, Investigative Reporter, Raw Story

“Lawmakers, Law Breakers”

Prize: $2,000.00

Alexandria Jacobson

Alexandria Jacobson’s original accountability reporting at Raw Story, under editor-in-chief Dave Levinthal, receives First Place. Jacobson’s investigation was fair, bold, specific, and thoroughly documented. “Lawmakers, Law Breakers” used “data journalism, document analysis and shoe-leather reporting” to prove that among members of Congress, “financial conflicts of interest run rampant and all but unchecked…[and] numerous members of Congress are violating the very law they passed to temper their own behavior with little, if any, legal consequence.” For example, the investigation examined Congressional financial documents and found both Democrats and Republicans violating the Congressional STOCK Act by failing to disclose transactions within a 45-day deadline. Amazingly, violators include some members of Congress who helped write and pass the STOCK Act.

According to the submission, “Our reporting is decidedly fair, nonpartisan and thorough. It serves to illuminate a serious but woefully under-covered problem at the highest levels of government. Raw Story reporters pore over financial filings daily and reporting in story form any and all legal violations or glaring financial conflicts uncovered. We offer each suspected offender opportunities to explain themselves in full. We hold to account the House and Senate ethics committees that frequently turn a blind eye to their colleagues’ infractions. And we write our stories in an accessible fashion in an effort to explain to expert and lay readers alike how these violations serve to undermine the public’s confidence in Congress, writ large — and could be remedied if Congress develops the will to act.”

Examples of Alexandria Jacobson’s winning reporting can be accessed below.

“A Democratic congressman who says Congress shouldn’t trade stock violated existing stock trade law,” Jan. 27:

“From Marjorie Taylor Greene to Ro Khanna: Several members of Congress could personally profit from Biden-backed fossil fuel drilling project in Alaska,” March 15:

“‘Anti-corruption’ Rep. Dan Goldman made hundreds of stock trades after saying he’d create a ‘blind trust’,” April 18:

“Pelosi lieutenant who sponsored congressional stock ban bill just violated the STOCK Act,” May 17:

“Pelosi reports tech stock purchases worth up to $1.5M amid ‘crisis of confidence and trust’ in Congress,” June 23:

ION Achievement Award Winner: 

Dana Kennedy, Senior Reporter, The New York Post

“CEI Scores”: Inside the Woke Scoring System Guiding American Companies

Prize: $500.00

Dana Kennedy

Dana Kennedy’s insightful and original investigation was published on the front page of The New York Post, and quickly went viral. Her eye-opening article explains the mystery of why so many companies and CEOs seem to suddenly “go woke.” 

Kennedy discovered that “the three big private equity firms – BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street – have become stakeholders in most American companies and are forcing them, Mafia-style, to adhere to a social credit score, CEI for short, that is part of the overall ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) ‘socially responsible’ investing scam.” 

According to Kennedy, the “Human Rights Campaign” lobby dispatches representatives to corporations every year to tell them what sort of visibility they must give to certain social and political priorities. It amounts to a list of demands. A company that doesn’t meet the demands is threatened that “it will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders.”

Companies are led to believe they must be seen making high profile, “positive contributions” to society. What constitutes a “positive contribution” almost always translates to supporting left-leaning or progressive positions. 

This helps explain why American companies have taken actions contrary to their own fiduciary duties. Bud Light alienated loyal customers by signing up Dylan Mulvaney, a man who became a transgender woman and social media star, who chronicles living life as a trans woman since 2022. Target created controversy by prominently marketing gay merchandise, sometimes in the children’s section. 

Kennedy’s reporting fills in an important blank: Why corporate executives “seem to sacrifice profit for virtue-signaling.” Ironically, they may think that supporting one side of public controversies will benefit their business, but the backlash can undermine corporate profits.

Read Kennedy’s winning article here.

ION Achievement Award Winner:

Breanna Morello, Senior Producer for The Absolute Truth with Emerald Robinson

“Being a Voice for the Voiceless J6 Defendants”

Prize: $500 

Breanna Morello

Much has been written about the protests and riots on at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. Most of the reporting supported one side in the debate. This winning entry by Breanna Morello, senior producer, with Emerald Robinson, of The Absolute Truth with Emerald Robinson, examines the much-ignored other side to present a more complete story. 

There was much to be told, including stories about nonviolent defendants who have been excessively charged, defendants punished with historically harsh sentences, evidence of political bias in the prosecutions, and alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the form of deceptively-edited videos. 

Morello and Robinson tell the types of stories the traditional news media used convey, but have uniquely marginalized in this case.

Several of the winning entries can be viewed below.

“EXCLUSIVE report on J6 defendants being abused in the D.C. jail,”

“Oath Keepers member Kelly Meggs, sentenced to 12 years for seditious conspiracy, tells us the DOJ edited footage to use at trial,”

“Sgt. Ken Harrelson was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy but guilty of a few other minor charges and sentenced to 4 years in prison: The VA pulled his benefits before he was even convicted,”

ION Honorable Mentions: 

2023 Honorable Mentions are: Rav Arora of the Illusion of Consensus Substack with Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya for “How Major Media Outlets Suppressed My Covid Journalism” and “The Dangerous Illusion of Scientific Consensus”; Tracy Beanz, Editor-in-Chief and Investigative Journalist at UncoverDC, “The Dark to Light podcast,” for “Missouri v. Biden In-depth Coverage”; and Brooke Conrad at The National Desk for “‘No other choice’: Some injured by Covid vaccines can’t get medical exemptions.”

The entries by Rav Arora and Jay Bhattacharya include fascinating insight from them as insiders in journalism and medicine. Arora’s “How Top Media Outlets Blocked My Coverage of Alex Berenson’s Landmark Lawsuit Against Twitter” exposes the inner workings of bias in newsrooms that results in hopelessly slanted reporting. The pair also interviewed “key scientists, doctors, and policymakers who have pushed back against the covid illusion of consensus, often at great personal cost.” 

Tracy Beanz is recognized for in-depth coverage of the landmark Missouri v. Biden case brought by the Attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana. Other than Beanz’s reporting, the case has received far less media attention than it deserves, considering that it has generated historic court decisions. For the first time, federal courts have said the White House, the FBI and other federal agencies and their occupants have engaged in unconstitutional censorship by colluding with social media to suppress inconvenient speech, even censoring true statements.

Brooke Conrad’s reporting chronicled the painful journey of some employees, severely injured by their first Covid vaccine and with medical records to prove it, who were forced to the Hobson’s choice between the risk of additional side effects from a second shot, or losing their job. Conrad shed light on an important, underreported topic that has been mired in misinformation in much of the media.

Congratulations to the winners for entries that exemplify excellence in original and investigative news reporting amid an increasingly managed and excessively corporate news environment.

We received multiple impressive entries, so we encourage participants to send submissions next year!

The judges of the second annual ION Awards are Sharyl Attkisson and Prof. Alberto Martinez of the University of Texas at Austin. The Awards are funded by Attkisson and began in 2022.

ION Awards Judges Prof. Alberto Martinez and Sharyl Attkisson

To read about the 2022 winners of the Student ION Awards at the University of Florida, click here.

2023 Student ION Awards will soon be given at Diablo Valley College. Read more here.

2022 Winners Announcement:

This announcement can be copied or distributed in its entirety.

We are pleased to announce the three winners of the 2022 ION Awards for Investigative and Original News reporting, sponsored by Sharyl Attkisson. Congratulations to Paul D. Thacker, our First Prize winner. Congratulations also to the two other finalists, Jaie Avila and Todd Shepherd, winners of ION Achievement Awards. We warmly thank all other reporters and editors who submitted nominations; we appreciate your dedication and vocation for journalism.  

ION Award Winner:

Paul D. Thacker, Freelance Reporter

“Pfizer’s Problematic Vaccine”

Prize: $2,000.00

Paul D. Thacker

Paul Thacker’s groundbreaking and important investigation, “Pfizer’s Problematic Vaccine,” originated not in a traditional news outlet, but in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), one of the top medical journals in the world. Thacker revealed serious issues with Pfizer’s pivotal Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial, including “poor laboratory management, patient safety concerns, and data integrity issues.” Ventavia was a contractor running Pfizer’s clinical trials. Using clear documentation, Thacker traced what happened when a whistleblower, Ventavia regional director Brook Jackson, reported that Pfizer contractor to the FDA. She was fired that same day; yet internal company documents, emails, audio recordings, photos, and two other employees confirmed Jackson’s concerns. Thacker’s article was meticulously well-documented and sourced. He interviewed the whistleblower on-the-record as a credible, high-ranking official providing verifiable firsthand information. Thacker followed up with articles in his Substack newsletter: The Disinformation Chronicle. His investigations generated news reports in the US, Italy, the UK and South Korea. His work also highlighted the enormous profits Pfizer made from the vaccine. 

Thacker’s BMJ winning entry can be viewed here, plus two other examples of his work:

Nov 2, 2021, The BMJ, “Covid-19: Researcher Blows the Whistle on Data Integrity Issues in Pfizer’s Vaccine Trial,”

Nov 30, 2021, The DisInformation Chronicle, “Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial Whistleblower’s Documents Released” Read here.

Dec 14, 2021, The DisInformation Chronicle, “Reporters Expose Pfizer Misinformation And Power To Demand Eye-Popping Vaccine Profits” Read here.

ION Achievement Award Winner: 

Jaie Avila, Investigative Reporter

“Government and Activists Bail Out Criminals”

Prize: $500.00

Jaie Avila

Jaie Avila’s investigation, “Government and Activists Bail Out Criminals,” aired on News 4 San Antonio, WOIA-TV. In a thorough, fair, and compelling presentation, Avila revealed how Bexar County officials are assisting a controversial bail reform program that has bonded out hundreds of inmates, including habitual offenders, amid rising crime. Despite the noble goal of providing help to poor minorities, the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) bails out “low level offenders” irrespective of whether previously they have been repeatedly indicted or convicted of violent crimes. Avila’s reporting is well-documented and evenhanded, including interviews with a representative from the bail organization TOP, the Bexar County Sheriff, and the Bexar County District Attorney. Avila showed that the Sheriff and the District Attorney both received large campaign contributions from TOP. Within the tight strictures of a television newscast, Avila’s succinct report combined verifiable information with illuminating analysis.

Jaie Avila’s winning entry can be viewed here:

February 22, 2022 newscast, “Battle Over Bail,” News 4 San Antonio,

ION Achievement Award Winner:

Todd Shepherd, Investigative Reporter

“Pennsylvania Election Grants from Zuckerberg via CTCL”

Prize: $500 

Todd Shepherd

In 2020, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated more than $350 Million to the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to increase voter participation ostensibly irrespective of political affiliations. Their money was distributed to multiple states and doled out by government officials in select counties. However, Todd Shepherd’s investigation, in Broad + Liberty, revealed “ethical, political, and transparency issues.” Using Right to Know requests to the Pennsylvania government, Shepherd found that such grants were awarded disproportionately to Democrat-leaning PA counties ahead of the 2020 Presidential election; for example, four “blue” counties each received more “Zuckbucks” than all of the “red” counties combined. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State handpicked which counties to invite to apply for grants, and chose when to invite them. The infusion of private funds created disparities in how government officials treated voters. Shepherd’s subsequent reports showed that partisan operatives colluded behind the scenes. His reporting was cited in subsequent bipartisan legislation in the Pennsylvania House and Senate in calls for reform, including Senate Bill 982. Presently, twenty states have enacted legislation to ban the infusion of private funds into government elections processes.

Shepherd’s winning entry, from April 2021, is linked below, plus his subsequent reports:

April 13, 2021: Zuckerberg-funded 2020 election grants skewed heavily toward PA’s ‘blue’ counties

June 7, 2021: ‘Blue’ Southeast PA counties had head start on election grants 

June 14, 2021: Democratic strategist linked to early push on controversial election grants

Oct. 13, 2021: Democratic-leaning counties selectively invited to apply for election grants, emails show

Oct. 19, 2021: Former Sec. of State Boockvar and Gov. Wolf staffer helped selectively invite counties for election grants

Congratulations to the winners for entries that exemplify excellence in original and investigative news reporting amid an increasingly managed and excessively corporate news environment.

We received multiple impressive entries, so we encourage participants to send submissions next year!

The Co-Judges of the inaugural ION Awards were Sharyl Attkisson and Prof. Alberto Martinez of the University of Texas at Austin. The Awards were funded by Attkisson.

To read about the winners of the first Student ION Awards at the University of Florida, click here.

Student ION Awards will be given at Diablo Valley College this fall. Read more here.

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13 thoughts on “Announcing Winner of the 2024 ION Awards for Investigative and Original News Reporting”

  1. Congratulations and thanks to Sharyl Attkisson for instituting and funding these awards for journalistic excellence. Journalism integrity today is in desperate short supply and is needed more than ever

  2. Crazy, none of Todd’s links worked for me. I had to search for stories by name. Kinda reminds me how your TV show was the only one for years that the lips didn’t match the sound which drove my wife not to watch.

  3. Yeah, the links don’t work for me either. A nice little Microsoft message when you get there ?‍♀️ just sayin.

  4. Reporters become noticeable by the masses when they write books or have contributions in major publications.
    I have not heard of any of these gentlemen, until now, but then they are local or foreign investigators. Thanks to Shary’s ION awards they may just get the recognition they deserve and a larger base of readers/viewers.

  5. We appreciate your review and sponsorship of the ION awards, Ms Attkisson! I’d be most curious to know if a monk somewhere in Tibet might be journaling about the Chinese Govt. Perhaps an international scope is in the wind for another version of investigative journalist awards? [or it already exists?]

  6. Thanks for true insightful journalism. Thanks for publicizing the excellent efforts of the journalists you work with.

  7. The New York Times is one of the most bias publications known to modern journalism. 99.9% propaganda and owned by the very special interest group that destroys you, your life, your business if you notice them. I wouldn’t be proud to work for them.

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