Louise Kiernan named editor of ProPublica Illinois

Louise Kiernan

Louise Kiernan, a veteran Chicago journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, has been hired as editor-in-chief of ProPublica Illinois, an investigative news organization soon to be launched here.

Kiernan most recently has been an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and co-director of Medill’s Social Justice News Nexus, the school’s social justice and investigative reporting specialization.

Illinois will mark the first regional publishing venture for ProPublica, the independent, nonprofit producer of investigative journalism, founded in New York in 2007.

Starting April 4, Kiernan will join ProPublica to build and manage its Chicago-based newsroom, according to an announcement Tuesday.  Job openings were posted this week for a variety of editorial positions.

No date has been set for the startup of ProPublica Illinois, which will publish its stories online and partner with other news organizations on a nonexclusive basis.

“With her experience in enterprising accountability journalism and news management, as well as her strong ties across the city of Chicago and state of Illinois, Louise is exactly the right person to lead ProPublica Illinois,” Robin Fields, managing editor of ProPublica, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have her extraordinary talents as we launch our first state-based expansion.”

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Kiernan received a master’s degree from Medill and was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. She also served as editor of the Nieman Storyboard, a narrative journalism website sponsored by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.

Before joining the Medill faculty in 2010, Kiernan was a reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune for 18 years. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2001 as lead writer of “Gateway to Gridlock,” a four-part series on problems with air travel.

“I’ve long admired the work of ProPublica, and I’m delighted to join their team to help illuminate the complex issues facing Chicago and Illinois,” Kiernan said in a statement. “We’re eager to get started reporting great stories, giving people the information they need to understand their region and make decisions, using unassailable facts and compelling narratives to do so.”

Kiernan is married to Steve Johnson, a writer and critic at the Tribune for more than 30 years.