Professor Deborah Nelson

  • 1997 winner, Investigative Reporting category

Deborah Nelson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, an author, and director of the Carnegie Seminar at Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland.
      She joined the Merrill faculty as visiting professor in 2006, after five years as the investigations editor for The Los Angeles Times Washington bureau. She also reported for the Washington Post, Seattle Times and Chicago Sun-Times.
     She shared in the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 1997 for a series on widespread problems in the federal government’s Indian housing program. She also was editor on two Pulitzer Prize-winning projects: a 2001 Washington Post series on the deaths of 229 children in District of Columbia’s care, and a 2002 Los Angeles Times series on the deadly accident record of the Marine Harrier jump jet.  
     Her investigative work has won more than a dozen other national awards, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science top journalism prize for an investigation of gene therapy research in the United States, and the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for a series on the government’s mismanagement of public lands.
     Since joining the Merrill faculty, Ms. Nelson has published a critically acclaimed book, The War Behind Me (Basic Books, 2008), on U.S. war crimes in Vietnam, based on declassified Pentagon files and interviews with combat veterans, Vietnamese survivors and Pentagon officials.  The book traces the narratives of courageous soldiers who tried to stop atrocities and confronts those responsible, from the battlefield to the White House.  A New York Times review called The War Behind Me “an important book”
     As director of the school’s Carnegie Seminar, Ms. Nelson launched a program aimed at developing the critical thinking skills of journalism students and improving their ability to report on complex political, social and scientific issues. She also is director of journalism initiatives for Merrill’s International Center for Media and the Public Agenda. In that role, she is helping to develop a global curriculum for journalism schools on international criminal law and justice.  
      Ms. Nelson serves on the advisory boards of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Investigative Reporting Workshop.  She is past president and an active volunteer in Investigative Reporters and Editors, an organization committed to elevating the skills and ethics of journalists worldwide. 
      Ms. Nelson earned a Juris Doctorate from the DePaul University College of Law.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northern Illinois University. 



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