Kat Stafford, a national investigative writer with The Associated Press, will receive the National Press Club Journalism Institute’s 2023 Neil and Susan Sheehan Award for Investigative Journalism.
Stafford is a leading voice on representation and equity; her investigative work analyzes how structural racism has fueled inequity through the lens of politics, government, health, and environmental justice. Among her journalistic work this year, she reported and published a series exploring how the legacy of racism in America has laid the foundation for health inequities Black people face throughout their lives.
“The Institute is pleased to recognize such deep reporting that puts a face on racial equity issues that so many people seem to want to brush aside,” Journalism Institute President Gil Klein said. “Kat’s vision and reporting in this year’s ‘From Birth to Death’ series, which examined health care inequities for Black families in five communities throughout the country, added to her career accomplishments representing the best of investigative journalism.”
Stafford joined the AP in February 2020 to cover the intersection of race and politics. Two weeks into her new role, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, transforming her work to look at the pandemic’s disparate impact on Black and other communities of color, the racial justice movement, and the presidential election.
Prior to joining the AP, Stafford was an investigative reporter at the Detroit Free Press and her reporting prompted city legislation, policy changes, congressional reviews, and federal and state investigations.
“I am thrilled and honored to receive this incredible award,” Stafford said. “Throughout my career, I have worked to shed light on structural racism and inequities that continue to impact Black Americans and people of color across our nation. This honor reaffirms the vital need for investigative journalism to remain committed to telling these truths in an unflinching, truthful manner.”
Since publication, Stafford’s five-part, multiformat project has received widespread praise from readers, medical professionals, journalists, and more. The project was also published and featured prominently in newspapers across the country by AP newsroom customers. Stafford has been featured in several TV and radio interviews, including NPR’s Morning Edition show and BBC News. The families featured throughout the project heralded the series, sharing that for the first time in their lives, they “felt seen” through Stafford’s work.
“Kat has long been a leader in using the power of investigative reporting to tell the stories of the marginalized, from the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic on communities of color to how structural racism continues to impact the everyday lives of these communities — in everything from the military to the health care system,” said Ron Nixon, AP Vice President, News and Head of Investigations, Enterprise, Partnerships and Grants. “We are honored to see her work recognized by the National Press Club Journalism Institute with the Neil and Susan Sheehan Award for Investigative Journalism.”
Stafford’s history of service to representation in journalism and investigative reporting includes leadership roles with the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Board of Directors, the National Association of Black Journalists, the SPJ Detroit chapter, and the board of Eastern Michigan University’s student newspaper, The Eastern Echo. Stafford has made several television appearances and regularly hosts panel discussions and trainings about race in America.
Each year, the Neil and Susan Sheehan Award for Investigative Journalism recognizes work that best reflects the Sheehans’ extraordinary commitment to the principle that a vibrant democracy depends on an informed citizenry and a free press. The award promotes the practice of investigative journalism exemplifying compassion, courage, and integrity.
The Institute will confer the 2023 Sheehan Award during its annual Fourth Estate Award Gala later this fall.