Associate Professor Deborah Nelson by Kittner Photograpy.

Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism

College/University: B.S. Northern Illinois University; J.D. Depaul University College of Law

301-405-2888 2100E Knight Hall

Deborah Nelson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who joined the Merrill faculty in 2006 after five years as the Washington investigations editor for The Los Angeles Times. Before that, she reported for the Washington Post, Seattle Times and Chicago Sun-Times.

Nelson co-authored a Pulitzer series in Seattle that exposed widespread problems in the federal government’s Indian Housing Program. She co-edited Pulitzer series at the L.A. Times on the deadly accident record of the Marine Harrier, and at the Post on the deaths of more than 200 children under the watch of child protective services. Her science reporting also has received national honors. As a freelance reporter for Reuters, she recently co-authored “The Uncounted,” on antibiotic resistance, and “Water’s Edge,” on the present-day consequences of climate change that won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, National Press Club and National Academies of Sciences.

Her critically acclaimed book, The War Behind Me (Basic Books 2008), documents the cover-up of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam and profiles the soldiers who tried to stop the atrocities.

Nelson has a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law and a B.S. in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. She also has a Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies in Multimedia Journalism from Merrill.

Students in her investigative reporting course have produced their own award-winning work. Each spring, they tackle a national issue with local impact. Recent topics include human trafficking, rising seas and working poor. In her media law course, students learn their rights while pursuing freedom of information requests for Capital News Service and professional news outlets.

Expertise: Investigative reporting, FOIA

Photo credit: Sam Kittner

Curriculum Vitae




JOUR400 MEDIA LAW (Fall 2014)

Recent Publications

Water’s Edge,” Reuters, September 2014.

The Unequal State of America,” Reuters, December 2012

The Cruelest Show on Earth,” Mother Jones magazine, November/December 2011

The War Behind Me (Basic Books 2008)

Investigative journalism
News reporting, writing and editing
Media and the law: Freedom of information, First Amendment

Pulitzer Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Overseas Press Club, Sigma Delta Chi, Scripps Howard Foundation, John B. Oakes, Women in Communication, National Housing, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Suburban Newspapers of America and more than two dozen local and regional awards.

Fund for Investigative Journalism, Investigative Reporting Workshop, Investigative Reporters and Editors

Courses Taught
Investigative Reporting  JOUR698i/328i
Media Law and Ethics in the Digital Age” JOUR289E
Investigative Journalism in Post-Soviet Europe JOUR698R/479R
Media Law JOUR400
Probing War: Investigative Narratives and American Conflicts (I-Series Course) JOUR289J
Carnegie Seminar JOUR698N/479N