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Deborah Nelson

Deborah Nelson

Deborah Nelson

Professor of Investigative Journalism

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

Nelson co-authored a Pulitzer-winning series in Seattle that exposed widespread corruption and inequities in a program designed to provide decent housing to thousands of Native American families on reservations around the U.S.

She co-edited Pulitzer-winning 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.

Since joining Merrill College, she has co-authored articles for Reuters that examined income inequality, climate change, antibiotic resistance and military housing conditions. The articles won national awards, including from the Society of Professional Journalists, National Academies of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, White House Correspondents' Association and National Press Club.

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

Students in her investigative reporting course have produced their own award-winning work for Capital News Service and the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism. Recent projects on the pandemic, housing insecurity, jail suicides and plea-bargaining abuses were published on The Associated Press national wire and appeared on news sites nationwide. 

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 College.




JOUR402 MEDIA LAW (Summer 2020)


Recent Publications

 “The Bat Lands: How bat habitat destruction could spark next pandemic,” Reuters, May 2023

 “Out of Control: America’s losing battle against diabetes,” Reuters, 2021

COVID-19, Reuters, 2020-21

“Ambushed at Home,” Reuters, 2018

– “The Uncounted,” Reuters, 2016-2017

– “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

– Science journalism

– News reporting, writing and editing

– Media and the law: Freedom of information, First Amendment


Pulitzer Prize, Scripps Howard Foundation, National Academies of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society of Professional Journalists, White House Correspondents' Association, National Press Club, Overseas Press Club, John B. Oakes, Sidney Hillman, Women in Communication, Investigative Reporters and Editors, National Housing, Suburban Newspapers of America and more than two dozen local and regional awards.


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

Courses Taught

– Investigative Journalism JOUR698i/353

– Media Law and Ethics in the Digital Age JOUR281 (I-Series Course)

– Media Law and Ethics JOUR402

– Media Law JOUR400

– Investigative Journalism in Post-Soviet Europe JOUR698R/479R

– Probing War: Investigative Narratives and American Conflicts (I-Series Course) JOUR289J

– Carnegie Seminar JOUR698N/479N

Curriculum Vitae


B.S., Northern Illinois University
Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Journalism, University of Maryland
J.D., DePaul University College of Law

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