David Jackson, one of the most influential journalists in Illinois, has accepted a position as a senior investigative reporter at the Better Government Association.

Jackson joins the Chicago-based nonprofit after nearly 30 years at the Chicago Tribune, where his work focused on lifting the voices of the neglected and underserved amid life-threatening government failures. His work has revealed sexual violence against students in Chicago’s public schools; helped put officials in jail; exposed abusive cops; tracked down fugitives overseas; protected vulnerable nursing home residents; and created demand for the safe housing of Chicago’s mentally ill.

Jackson won a Pulitzer Prize at The Washington Post and was a four-time Pulitzer finalist during his time at the Tribune. At the Post, he and three colleagues received the Pulitzer for public service for a series of articles about residents shot by police.

Jackson and his reporting partner, Gary Marx, drew national attention earlier this year for their efforts to recruit local investors to purchase the Chicago Tribune in the face of newsroom cutbacks made at the behest of Tribune Publishing’s largest shareholder, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Jackson’s new position is made possible by the BGA Fund for Illinois Investigative Reporting (see accompanying release), a new BGA initiative designed to protect investigative reporting in Illinois at a time of staggering cutbacks at legacy news organizations.

“The BGA’s fearless investigative reporting holds powerful officials accountable from City Hall to Springfield. This work is needed now more than ever, and I am humbled to join the team,” Jackson said. 

“David Jackson is a unique talent whose incisive, compassionate and authoritative reporting consistently leads to reform,” said David Greising, president of the BGA. “David is the prototype for the talented, accomplished journalists we have in mind in creating the new BGA Fund for Investigative Journalism.”

Jackson’s work has had a significant impact on city and state governments throughout Illinois.

In 2018, Jackson led a team of Tribune reporters that exposed a prevalence of sexual violence inside Chicago Public Schools and spurred sweeping reforms. His work showing that youth were assaulted, raped and prostituted at state-funded residential treatment centers also produced immediate changes. Jackson also co-authored a series that showed how thousands of students miss months of school each year or vanish altogether, prompting new state laws and a legislative task force.

Other investigations included:

  • A series that uncovered corruption and government neglect that helped devastate sections of Chicago’s West Side;
  • A series of stories that tracked down fugitives from Illinois who lived with impunity in foreign countries;
  • An investigation into the Nation of Islam that led to a federal probe of then-CHA chief Vince Lane, who was imprisoned;
  • A series that sparked an overhaul of nursing home laws and led to new housing and programs for thousands of people with mental illness;
  • An investigation into the human cost of coal mining;
  • A probe of food-borne illnesses at public schools;
  • Stories that disclosed ties between Chicago police brass and crime syndicate figures.

Jackson in early 2020 provided funding for a multi-year internship program at the BGA named for his longtime Tribune reporting partner Marx. The program launched this summer.

The Better Government Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was founded in 1923. For nearly a century, the BGA has used investigative reporting and policy advocacy to fight for transparency, efficiency and accountability in government in Chicago and across Illinois.