News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

Pulitzer Prize-winner Bill Gaines named to Knight Chair in Journalism

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor
(217) 333-2894;


Bill Gaines, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner during 27 years as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, has been named to the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of Illinois.

Gaines, who has taught courses for more than two decades on investigative reporting and is the author of a widely used textbook on the subject, will start at the UI in August.

The Knight Chair, funded by a $1.5 million endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, was awarded to the UI department of journalism last year. Sixteen of the endowed chairs have been established nationwide since 1990; the UI chair is the only one that focuses on investigative journalism and enterprise reporting.

"The more complex the world becomes, the more we need journalists who can probe, analyze, verify and clarify," said Eric Newton, the director of Journalism Initiatives for the Knight Foundation. "Bill Gaines and the University of Illinois will help teach a new generation the true importance of quality investigative and explanatory journalism."

"Bill brings tremendous credentials and tremendous credibility," said Ron Yates, the chair of the UI department of journalism and a former colleague at the Tribune.

The Knight Chair position will involve not only teaching courses on campus – which will include the latest computer- and Internet-based reporting techniques – but also organizing programs for reporters and journalism educators in Illinois and nationwide, Gaines said.

"Newsrooms needn't feel they have to have a team of investigative reporters in order to use these investigative techniques," Gaines said. "Everybody should be using them."

The Knight Chair is the first chair in the 74-year history of the UI College of Communications to be endowed from outside the university, said Kim Rotzoll, the dean of the college.

"It represents a recognition by a prominent foundation of the exceptional journalism education available at Illinois," Rotzoll said. Gaines "is an absolutely compelling choice for the recognition," Rotzoll said, because of Gaines' prize-winning journalism and his willingness to reflect deeply on his craft.

His textbook, "Investigative Reporting for Print and Broadcast" was published in 1992 and in a second edition in 1998, and has been used in at least 60 journalism programs. From 1975 to 1999, Gaines taught an investigative reporting course each semester at Columbia College in Chicago, and has done the same during the last two years at the UI.

Gaines earned a bachelor's degree in broadcasting at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1956. After two years in the Army, during which he worked for Armed Forces Radio in Germany, he held several broadcasting positions in Michigan and Indiana. In 1963, he became a reporter for the Tribune, and then became an investigative reporter in 1974.

The subjects of his investigative work have been wide-ranging, on topics such as bank and insurance redlining, unsafe medical doctors, wrongful murder conviction, gun laws, and how jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton was cheated out of royalties.

Gaines' first Pulitzer came in 1976 as a member of an investigative team at the Tribune looking into unsafe medical practices at some Chicago hospitals. He worked undercover as a janitor at a hospital; the hospital closed within a week after publication. His second Pulitzer came in 1988 for a series about corruption in the Chicago City Council.

Gaines also was a finalist for two Pulitzers: in 1979, for a series about the problems of the elderly, and in 1995, for an investigation into the financial dealings of the Nation of Islam. Numerous other awards over the years have come from Illinois United Press International, Illinois Associated Press, Chicago Headline Club, Chicago Society of Black Journalists, Digital Age and the Chicago Tribune.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.