In a virtual ceremony streamed on YouTube, the Better Government Association presented the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting on July 14.

Submissions included powerful stories exposing clout and self-dealing, justice denied, children and families harmed, and more.

From 22 entries and a set of five finalists, three top honorees won prizes totaling $26,000, thanks to the generosity of our sponsor, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

“The Quiet Rooms,” an investigation showing how Illinois schools put special education students in seclusion rooms or physically restrained them for unlawful reasons, was selected as the first place winner with a prize of $15,000. The second-place award went to “Unwarranted: Wrong Raids,” a series by WBBM-TV, and third place was earned by “The Bad Bet,” by a team of ProPublica and WBEZ public radio reporters.

“The Quiet Rooms” series, by reporters Jennifer Smith Richards of the Chicago Tribune and Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis of ProPublica Illinois, also shared a new Readers’ Choice prize, selected by BGA supporters who voted for their favorite among the five finalists. The Readers’ Choice winner receives a $1,000 award.

We invited friends, supporters and fans of investigative reporting to vote for the Readers’ Choice because this year we couldn’t gather to recognize and celebrate the hard work and impact of the nominees.

The Driehaus Awards honor excellence in government-related investigative reporting in Illinois and recognize the importance of this work in preserving and advancing democracy.

BGA President David Greising noted, “All those who submitted entries in this year’s Driehaus Awards have held government accountable and defended those who cannot defend themselves. At the BGA, we are proud to join them as colleagues in the fight for accountability and transparency. Today, more than ever, we all need to speak truth to power.”

Richard H. Driehaus, who has sponsored these awards for close to 15 years, said he supports investigative journalism “because of the impact; the return on investment is high.” Of the nominated reporters, he added, “I can’t thank them enough. They are driven and are doing good.”


First Place: $15,000

“The Quiet Rooms”

Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune;

Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis, ProPublica Illinois

Second Place: $7,000

“Unwarranted: Wrong Raids”

Dave Savini, Michele Youngerman, Samah Assad,

Rebecca McCann, Deandre Taylor and Mike Klingele, WBBM-TV

Story | National Story | Supplemental Materials | Legislation

Third Place: $4,000

“The Bad Bet”

Jason Grotto and Sandhya Kambhampati, ProPublica Illinois;

Dan Mihalopoulos, WBEZ Public Radio

Story co-published with the Chicago Sun-Times

Reader’s Choice Award: $1,000

“The Quiet Rooms”

Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune;

Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis, ProPublica Illinois

Finalist: “Power Players: Clout at ComEd”

Dan Mihalopoulos, Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold and Alex Keefe

WBEZ Public Radio

Finalist: “You’re Destroying Families

Melissa Sanchez and Duaa Eldeib

ProPublica Illinois


The BGA thanks the panel of seasoned journalists who judged the 2020 entries:

  • Christopher Bury, Senior Journalist in Residence, DePaul University

  • Brant Houston, Professor and Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Mike Miner, Writer and Editor, Chicago Reader

  • Jackie Spinner, Correspondent, Columbia Journalism Review

  • Laura Washington, Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times and Analyst, ABC-7

We are grateful to Richard H. Driehaus Foundation for continued support of the BGA and these awards as well as the production services, staff support, facilities and classic automobiles that made our virtual award ceremony possible.

We also thank Steven Murphy at Streamlining Studios; producer Denise McGowan Tracy of DMT Entertainment and Events; and Sound Investments Audio Visual for technical support.