BGA and Block Club Chicago share national Izzy Award

Stories about corruption at Loretto Hospital and shifting profits at the state’s Medicaid program are honored with the annual award for achievement in independent journalism.

Images from the top left: Graphic by Cesar Calderon/BGA; Photo by Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago.

Two investigative projects by the Better Government Association’s David Jackson have been honored with the national Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent journalism.

First, Jackson was honored — along with his reporting partner at Block Club Chicago, Kelly Bauer — for an “explosive series” on corruption at Loretto Hospital, and its role in dispensing COVID-19 vaccines to Black and Latino residents.

Secondly, the award presenters — Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College — singled out Jackson’s series Milking Medicaid, which exposed how privatization shifted hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to insurance companies and away from medical providers and Medicaid recipients.

“The impact of their stories has been tremendous,” said the judges, “bringing down a greedy elite of politicians, businessmen, hospital administrators, board members, and doctors, while narrating the stories of patients’ and workers’ incredible courage to act to expose cruel malpractice and vaccine scandals at Loretto Hospital.” 

The judges commented: “Such big-city nonprofit newsrooms are crucial because corporate media too often overlook major stories affecting the urban poor.”

“These investigations led to an FBI probe of Loretto Hospital’s vaccination program and have revealed the malfeasant conflict of interest at the top of Illinois’ Medicaid program,” according to the award announcement.

The Loretto series was recognized as a finalist in 2021 for Collaboration of the Year in the LION Publishers Local Journalism Awards.

The Izzy Award is named for I. F. “Izzy” Stone, the dissident journalist who launched I. F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 and questioned McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, racial injustice, and government deceit. This year’s judges were Jeff Cohen, founding PCIM director and founder of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting); Linda Jue, executive director of the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism; Robert W. McChesney, professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Raza Rumi, director of the Park Center for Independent Media; and Patricia Rodriguez, associate professor and chair of the Department of Politics at Ithaca College.

Other recipients this year include independent journalist Jenni Monet for her weekly newsletter giving voice to Native American communities; the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, for its Pandora Papers exposé; and Greg B. Smith of THE CITY, a nonprofit newsroom based in New York, who uncovered how 5,000 public housing apartments in buildings long ago deemed cleared of contamination contained lead paint.

The awards ceremony will be held at the end of April.

The Better Government Association in Chicago is Illinois’ only non-partisan, full-service government watchdog organization.