(EDITORS NOTE: A few weeks ago, Sarah Karp stood up to speak after a showing of “Spotlight.” She told the audience the movie, which won this year’s best picture Oscar, did a great job of showing what it takes to be an investigative reporter. “Spotlight” chronicles the Boston Globe’s special investigative team’s work to uncover the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse: From building spreadsheets, to digging through legal briefs to knocking on doors. Reporting can often be tedious and boring, albeit necessary. 


“That’s about it,” Karp said, with a smile. “It’s just a lot of hard work.” 


And a great reminder that important stories take personnel and time. 


She should know. Karp has been doggedly doing this work for years. Whether it’s looking into misspent Chicago Public Schools money, tracking down those thrown off the welfare roles in the name of reform or looking into a foster care system that failed Laquan McDonald, 17, who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer. Karp’s stories always go behind the policy, procedures and papers, to find the people, who have a story to tell. We are proud to honor her and her work this year with a 2016 Studs Terkel Community Media Award. ~ Susy Schultz) 

Sarah KarpSarah-Karp

Don’t ever stand in the way of Sarah Karp and a document, or a database, or a report or anything she may need for the story she is covering. This is an investigative journalist with five Education Writers Association awards, three Society of Professional Journalism awards as well as a 2005 Sidney Hillman Award. Her work has also led to the indictment of former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Baraba Byrd-Bennett.


And perhaps, most important, her work has illuminated the mismanagement of systems, programs and poorly executed policies that have deeply hurt people, who without Karp’s digging might not have found relief.


A brand new radio reporter, who recently joined WBEZ, Chicago Public Media, Karp has a resume as impressive as her awards. She’s been an investigative reporter for more than 15 years, working as: a senior investigator at the Better Government Association (BGA) and as a reporter at Catalyst-Chicago, the Chicago Reporter and the Daily Southtown.

Below are a few of our favorites:

$20 million no-bid contract raises questions about Supes Academy”  (July 2013)

Karp investigates the double digit no-bid contract between Supes Academy and Chicago Public Schools, which lead to the indictment of CPS’s CEO, Baraba Byrd-Bennett. Read story here.

Option school raises the question of quality”  (Feb. 2015)

A joint investigation with Catalyst Chicago and WBEZ finds the system’s new alternative schools, known as “options schools” are providing the district with a better graduation rate, but not a good education for students. Read story here.

Beyond basketball, a tough road for sports” (May 2015)

Karp highlights the struggle CPS had with funding sports programs. Read story here.

How CPS failed Laquan McDonald”  (Feb. 2016)

Karp examines the institutions failures that put Laquan McDonalds life in danger, before the night he was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer. Read story here.

Graduated but unprepared”  (Sept. 2007)


A story Karp did in the Chicago Reporter on how top-performing high school students have to take remedial classes in college due to unpreparedness. Read story here.