Watchdog award for public interest journalism: 2023 nominations open!

White rectangular background with black texts and blue lines. Text reads: Watchdog awards. Chicago Headline Club nominations are open. The deadline is February 12 at 11:59 p.m.

Sponsored by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, each year the Chicago Headline Club’s Watchdog Award presents a cash prize to Chicago-area journalists for enterprising journalism that defends and protects everyday folks.

The award honors and encourages outstanding reporting that calls attention to situations in which the public is being harmed or poorly served by the government, institutions or businesses at any level.

Past winners exposed decades of sexual abuse complaints by lifeguards in Chicago, identified a pattern of misuse of seclusion in Illinois public schools, and used data to uncover how property tax systems disproportionately benefitted wealthy homeowners.

Contest Rules

Nominations must be e-mailed by February 12, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., to Matt Krupnick at Please fill out and include this entry form in the nomination.

Reports must have been published, aired or posted between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023.

Entries must be the original work of journalists based in Illinois or who work for Illinois news media, or who work in Indiana’s Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties. Nominations may be made by the author or by any other person. Nominees need not be members of the Chicago Headline Club.

All nominations must meet standards set forth in the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics.
Entries should include all related corrections, clarifications, or retractions.

Entries should include all related corrections, clarifications or retractions.

Each entry must include a PDF or link accessible to judges to access the entry, a nomination form with the name of the entry, names of nominees, dates of publication or broadcast, and a link to or an inventory of attached materials; submission contact, title, and e-mail address; and an attached letter stating the project’s goals, obstacles and results. Please list all staff members to be named on a team entry and include any others who should be acknowledged as contributors.

Only named nominees will be awarded a cash prize to be divided among named nominees. Up to three individuals may be named on a team entry; otherwise the nomination must be made in the name of newsroom staff.

The Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago Headline Club Foundation are not responsible for errors or omissions in the nomination materials. The Chicago Headline Club has appointed a panel of judges to solicit and review nominations and select a slate of finalists. The final award will be approved by majority vote of the Chicago Headline Club Board of Directors.

If you have any questions, please email

About the Watchdog Award

The Watchdog Award is funded by a grant from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and is administered by the Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago Headline Club Foundation.

More previous winners

The Watchdog Award is supported by:

About the Chicago Headline Club: The Chicago Headline Club is the nation’s largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as an independent nonprofit dedicated to supporting journalists and promoting the values of a free press across the region. Founded in 1921, the Club champions freedom of information issues, offers professional training and support and hosts the annual Lisagor Awards. The Headline Club also supports SPJ’s mission to protect a free press and promote a well-informed citizenry.

About the Driehaus FoundationThe Watchdog Award is made possible by a generous pledge from the Driehaus Foundation, a Chicago-based family philanthropic organization that supports projects such as arts, culture, documentary film, radio reporting and investigative journalism.