Brant Houston, President
Professor Brant Houston holds the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches investigative and data journalism at the Department of Journalism in the College of Media.
He also oversees the online newsroom at Illinois, CU-CitizenAccess.org, which serves as a lab for digital innovation and data journalism and produces community and watchdog reporting.
Houston became the chair in 2007 after serving for more than a decade as the executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a 5,000-member organization, and as a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Before joining IRE, he was an award-winning investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 17 years.
Houston is the author of five editions of the textbook, “Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide,” and co-author of the fourth edition, fifth and sixth edition of “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.” He co-founded the Global Investigative Journalism Network, an association of more than 200 nonprofit newsrooms in 82 countries, in 2003 and serves as chair of its board of directors. He also is co-founder and chair emeritus of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a network of more than 300 nonprofit newsrooms in North America. He has taught and spoken about investigative and computer-assisted reporting at newsrooms and universities in 25 countries.
Currently he is working on projects involving the rise of nonprofit journalism newsrooms, digital tools for news-gathering, and new business models for journalism.
William Freivogel, Vice President
William H. Freivogel is a professor and former director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Previously he worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 34 years, serving as assistant Washington Bureau Chief and deputy editorial editor.
Freivogel was recently awarded the American Bar Association’s 2016 Silver Gavel for Media and the Arts for his legal analysis of the aftermath surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Read his work “Law, Justice and The Death of Michael Brown”, originally published in 2015 on St. Louis Public Radio
Freivogel covered the U.S. Supreme Court while in Washington. A series of editorials he wrote in 2001 about Attorney General John Ashcroft and civil liberties abuses was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A series about the Bill of Rights at 200 won the Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Medal and an ABA Silver Gavel. A series on the Constitution won the Benjamin Franklin award and the ABA’s Silver Gavel Award.
Freivogel is a graduate of Stanford University and Washington University Law School. He was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Young Alumni award from the law school.
In Washington, he shared the job of assistant bureau chief with his wife, Margaret. They were founders of the St. Louis Beacon where Margaret was editor.
Mark Horvit, Treasurer
Mark Horvit is the director of the State Government Reporting Program, at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.
Horvit previously served eight years as executive director of IRE, a 5,500-member association that conducts the largest conferences in investigative and computer-assisted journalism in the world and offers numerous workshops and online training sessions.
At IRE, Horvit oversaw training, conferences and services, and for programs including the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and DocumentCloud.
Horvit also served as projects editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He worked as a reporter, editor and on the projects teams at newspapers in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri and Florida.
Donna Vestal, Secretary
Donna Vestal, now retired, was the founding editor of Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration of public media stations across the Midwest devoted to agriculture and food issues.
Her passion for agriculture journalism dates back to the 1980s, when she was news editor of The Packer, a national weekly newspaper for the fruit and vegetable industry. She also was the lead researcher and writer for “A Century of Produce,” a book commemorating The Packer’s 100th anniversary.
Vestal more recently served as director of content strategy for KCUR 89.3, Kansas City’s public radio station and NPR affiliate, from 2013 through 2019. In 2020, she led America Amplified, a national project intended to bring community engagement into reporting on the 2020 presidential election. Ultimately, the collaboration also helped shape public media coverage of the pandemic to include perspectives from communities across the country.
A newspaper veteran, Vestal worked nearly 18 years as an assistant business editor for The Kansas City Star, where she directed small business, retail, development, workplace and health care beats, among others.
Vestal has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA from the University of Kansas.
Ruby Bailey, Member of the Board
Ruby Bailey is the Executive Editor of the Columbia Missourian and holds the Missouri Community Newspaper Management Chair, an endowed chair at the University of Missouri-Columbia supported by the Missouri Press Association. In that role, she works with local news organizations across Missouri to help improve their coverage and operations.
Prior to moving to Missouri, Bailey served as the Continuous News Editor at the Sacramento Bee, where she led a team of reporters focused on increasing and improving the Bee’s digital content. At the Detroit Free Press, she covered the 9/11 attacks and Operation Iraqi Freedom as a reporter embedded with the U.S. Navy for three months. Bailey also served as Assistant Metro Editor, Breaking News, and worked to improve the newspaper’s online edition.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in 1989.
Fernando Diaz, Member of the Board
Fernando Diaz works in a number of capacities that support local and investigative journalism.
He is currently a consultant for Newspack, the WordPress-based platform for independent media organizations. He is also a lecturer at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, where he teaches courses in data, interactive and investigative journalism.
He is a former editor-in-chief and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, managing editor – digital at the San Francisco Chronicle, senior editor for Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting and managing editor of Hoy Chicago, when it was a daily, Spanish-language newspaper.
Before joining Hoy, Diaz was ChicagoNow.com’s community manager for news and opinion, where he contributed to the site’s success by creating dynamic content as well as recruiting a diverse base of bloggers. Prior to joining the Tribune Company, he was a bilingual investigative reporter at The Chicago Reporter, producing exclusive, computer-assisted reports on social justice issues and before that, a daily newspaper reporter covering local government at the Daily Herald and Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, NY).
He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and a Maryland native. He was named a finalist for the Livingston Award 2008 and was selected as an ethnic media fellow of the Institute for Justice and Journalism that same year for a project on immigrants in the military. He is a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a proud member of IRE and a board member of the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism. He is blessed to live in Chicago with his wonderful family.
David Herzog, Member of the Board
David Herzog is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, where he also serves as the academic adviser to the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR).
Herzog is the author of “Data Literacy: A User’s Guide” and “Mapping the News: Case Studies in GIS and Journalism.” He is helping develop an online M.S. program in Data Science and Analytics at the University of Missouri.
Before joining the J-School faculty in January 2002, Herzog spent five years as an investigative reporter at the Providence Journal in Rhode Island.
Earlier, he was the editor for computer-assisted reporting at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., a business reporter for the Baltimore Sun and general assignment reporter for other newspapers in Pennsylvania.
Herzog holds a bachelor’s degree in radio-television-film from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Erin Jordan, Member of the Board
Erin Jordan is Iowa Watch’s past president. She is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, where she covers topics that include tax breaks, business incentives, state bonuses and food waste.
Before joining The Gazette, Erin was the Iowa City Bureau reporter for the Des Moines Register from 2003 to 2009. She has also taught at the University of Iowa’s Summer Journalism Workshop and Iowa Young Writer’s Studio. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University.
Gary Kebbel, Member of the Board
Gary Kebbel is a professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Kebbel is working to create a multidisciplinary, multicampus Center for Mobile Media at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with funding from the Ford Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
He was dean of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications for two years. During that time, the college created the nation’s first Drone Journalism Lab, started nearly a dozen new classes, increased enrollment, raised money from new sources and created exchange relationships with universities and institutes in China, India and Russia.
Before coming to Nebraska, Kebbel was the journalism program director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where he administered the Knight News Challenge, a $25 million contest to fund digital news innovations and experiments.
As News Director at AOL, he helped build one of the largest news and social sites on the Internet.
He is a founding editor of USA TODAY.com and Newsweek.com.
Kebbel is a Fulbright Senior Specialist who did his Fulbright work in South Africa. He is a member of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission subgroup on media.
He holds master’s degrees in journalism and in political science from the University of Illinois, and a master of social work degree from the Catholic University of America.
Gerry Lanosga, Member of the Board
Gerry Lanosga is an assistant professor in the Media School at Indiana University, where he teaches and researches in the areas of journalism practice, media law and journalism history.
After earning his PhD in 2010, he taught for three years at Ball State University before joining the faculty at Indiana University.
Previously, he had a 20-year career as a print and broadcast journalist in Indiana, winning numerous state, regional and national awards, including Sigma Delta Chi’s national public service award and the Freedom of Information Medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors.
A frequent speaker on issues relating to open government, Lanosga also serves as president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government and founding treasurer of the Indiana Debate Commission.
Lyle Muller, Member of the Board
Lyle Muller was IowaWatch’s first full-time executive director-editor from May 2012 until retiring from that position in August 2019.
Before that, he held several reporting and editing positions during 25 years at The Gazette, (Cedar Rapids, IA), among them being editor of the Iowa City Gazette in 1999-2003 and The Gazette in 2009-12, but also leading investigative and special projects, and serving as a senior editor on a team of editors that directed coverage of an Iowa flooding disaster, which won The Gazette the Society of Professional Journalists’ national Sigma Delta Chi award for deadline reporting in 2008.
A 1992 Council for the Advancement of Science Writing national fellow, his focus as a reporter was on health, science and higher education.
He is the professional adviser for Grinnell College’s student-run Scarlet & Black newspaper and a member of the Iowa High School Press Association Board of Directors. He was the reporting coach for The Daily Iowan’s Ethics and Politics Initiative journalism project and Iowa editor for PolitiFact.
He has taught political reporting and editing at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication as an adjunct faculty member and served on Pulitzer Prize juries that selected finalists for investigative reporting for 2017 and commentary for 2018. A University of Iowa graduate with a major in communication studies, he was a 2023 recipient of the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to the newspaper industry.
Mc Nelly Torres, Member of the Board
Mc Nelly Torres is an award-winning, investigative journalist and editor at the Center for Public Integrity. Previously, Torres worked as an investigative producer for NBC6 in Miami.
In 2010, Torres co-founded the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR.org). Before that her consumer stories at the Sun-Sentinel won state, regional, and national awards. She covered education for the San Antonio Express-News where her work contributed to the conviction of a school building architect accused of bribery.
In South Carolina, she garnered local and state awards for her investigative work on the state’s hog farm permitting process. She has also been a contributor to the Center for Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico and to the Investigative Editors Corp.
Torres was the first Latina to be elected to the boards of directors of the Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Florida Society of News Editors. She’s currently serving on the national board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Torres has earned over a dozen awards throughout her career, including an Emmy for her work at NBC, an Edward R. Murrow Award, and several awards from organizations such as the NAHJ, the Education Writers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Torres received a degree in journalism with a minor in political science from the University of Southern Colorado and a liberal arts degree from the University of Hawaii. @WatchdogDiva