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ProPublica Names George Papajohn as Midwest Editor

ProPublica announced Monday that George Papajohn has been selected as editor of its Chicago-based Midwest newsroom. Papajohn will work with Deputy Midwest Editor Steve Mills to lead the accomplished reporting team to investigate stories in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota and possibly other states. Papajohn begins his new role immediately.

“After an extensive nationwide search, which yielded an impressive pool of candidates, George stood out because of his experience telling stories that hold the powerful accountable and his collaborative approach to producing hard-hitting journalism,” said Charles Ornstein, ProPublica’s managing editor, local. “Our Midwest team’s work has brought about significant reforms. And we’re excited for the projects ahead under the leadership of George and Steve.”

Papajohn joined ProPublica as a senior editor in August and has helped edit several projects across the Midwest, including a story about how family courts in Wisconsin treat spouses accused of domestic violence and another about the tension between environmentalists and Black farmers in Pembroke, Illinois.

Before joining ProPublica, Papajohn served as an investigative editor at BuzzFeed News. At BuzzFeed, he helped edit the “FinCEN Files” series that exposed how Western banks profit from terror and organized crime in plain view of U.S. authorities. The project was a finalist for the Selden Ring Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

Previously, Papajohn was associate managing editor for investigations at the Chicago Tribune, where he expanded the paper’s projects office into a watchdog department, overseeing a dozen or more reporters. Papajohn directed the Tribune’s “Hidden Hazards” project — with Patricia Callahan, now of ProPublica, as lead reporter — which won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2008. He also oversaw eight projects that were Pulitzer finalists between 2007 and 2018, including five in the investigative category. Papajohn was an editor on “The Tax Divide” series, in partnership with ProPublica Illinois, which was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer for local reporting. He also collaborated on “The Quiet Rooms,” another joint investigation with ProPublica Illinois.

Papajohn has taught investigative journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

“This Midwest team has shown how a talented and passionate group of individuals can make an impact with their journalism,” Papajohn said. “It’s been led by skillful editors, and I look forward to the opportunity to build on that success.”

ProPublica’s Midwest hub, which since 2017 has published investigative journalism on key issues in Illinois, set the standard for ProPublica’s local news initiatives and has demonstrated the importance of a deep, long-term investment in a particular region. The team’s work has changed laws, prompted reforms to a citywide gang database, restored driver’s licenses to tens of thousands of people, revealed children in state care languishing in psychiatric hospitals longer than medically necessary and led to freedom for a teen who was jailed for not doing her coursework during the pandemic.

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