Biography of Professor Brant Houston

Professor Brant Houston holds the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois. Houston teaches investigative and advanced reporting in the Department of Journalism in the College of Media at Illinois.


Houston became the chair after serving for more than a decade as the executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a 4,000-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 also is the author of three editions of the textbook, "Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide," and co-author of the fourth edition and fifth edition of "The Investigative Reporter's Handbook."  Currently he is working on projects involving nonprofit journalism, ethnic media newsrooms, and new technologies for news-gathering.

September 17, 2010 — The McCormick Foundation has given a grant of $75,000 to the University of Illinois for a consortium of Midwest university journalism professors for public service reporting.

The project will be coordinated by Brant Houston, the Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting in the Journalism Department at the College of Media at Illinois, and will initially include universities in four states—Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

The project, known as the Investigative Journalism Education Consortium (IJEC), will bring together the knowledge and experience of the professors to carry out two major collaborative projects with their students throughout the Midwest. The grant provides money for coordination of the projects and travel expenses for planning and reporting on the projects.

When I was working at The Hartford Courant in Connecticut in the early 1990s, an editor came up with the theory of constant mass in a newsroom. He said that if you watched closely you would see that when one journalist went on a diet another one gained weight. But no matter the losses and gains, he said, the general mass of the newsroom stayed the same.

A similar theory might be applied to investigative journalism in the twenty-first century. While investigative reporting has drastically diminished in traditional and mainstream newsrooms, it has rapidly expanded into different forms and combinations in Web ventures and at universities throughout the world.

There is little dispute about whether there should be a future for investigative reporting. The issues are how will it be defined, how will it maintain high standards and quality, in what forms and with what methods will it thrive, and how will it be financed.

Knight Foundation logoMany foundations are helping to build the bridge to the future of investigative journalism, but none is putting as much work and money into the bridge as the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation.

Based in Miami, Florida, the journalism foundation has given millions of dollars in grants to all the varied elements of investigative reporting, whether it is training, investigations themselves, special projects, university programs or investigative centers

Knight also funds freedom of information efforts (which often are the beginning step for investigations), community information initiatives that include investigative work, and digital innovations that provide tools for doing investigations.

Questions or comments about the Knight Chair?

Please contact Professor Brant Houston at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.