Erin Orr, deputy director of Investigate Midwest, has been named as executive director, the board of directors announced Wednesday.
Since May of this year, Orr has overseen day-to-day operations and newsroom production. She brings more than 30 years of editorial and administrative experience to the role. Orr replaces Pam Dempsey, who has since relocated to Arizona after a decade of service during which she helped build Investigate Midwest into a robust and nationally recognized newsroom.
“We were excited to have Erin join us in May and are pleased that she has agreed to now step into the executive director position after working with Pam for several months,” said Brant Houston, president of the Investigate Midwest board. “This has ensured a smooth transition as Investigate Midwest moves into a new phase. The board wants to thank Pam for all her work for Investigate Midwest and to wish her success in her future endeavors.”
Orr was previously the editor and senior personnel administrator for Lee Enterprises Design Center, managing editor for The Times of Northwest Indiana and The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois, and has held many leadership roles in newsrooms throughout her three-decade career.
Orr has led and edited a number of award-winning news series including an investigation into the decades-long lead contamination in the soil and water of subsidized housing in East Chicago, Indiana, and the causes behind the Hoosier state’s high infant-mortality rates.
“I’ve long had a passion for watchdog journalism,” Orr said. “The potential for long lasting impact can help change lives and circumstances as well as lead to a better, more informed society. It benefits us all.”
Since its launch in 2009, Investigate Midwest has grown from a one-person operation into an award-winning newsroom with more than 10 staff and contractors. It recently acquired IowaWatch, a nonprofit newsroom, building upon a long term collaborative relationship and to establish a presence in a key agricultural state.Investigate Midwest focuses on the otherwise untold stories on agribusiness and its impact on labor, food and fuel systems and rural communities.
Dempsey said she is excited for the newsroom’s future, especially under the leadership of Orr.
“Erin’s extensive experience, professionalism and vision makes her the right person to grow our organization to the next level,” Dempsey said. “I’ve been truly honored to work with a talented team of reporters who have put a spotlight on issues and stories that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and elevated them to national conversations. Their dedication, coupled with the unwavering support and time from an experienced board of directors has grown Investigate Midwest to what it is today.”