About

Michael J. Berens is an investigative reporter for The Seattle Times and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

Berens previously worked on the investigative team at the Chicago Tribune and at The Columbus Dispatch, where he began at age 22 as a copy boy and learned how to sort mail, deliver newspapers hot-off-the-press to staff, grab the editor’s lunch (usually a hoagie sandwich) and set up the newsroom Christmas tree. He eventually worked his way up to night police beat reporter – the third shift ( 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.).

Berens’ work has received dozens of national awards, including multiple honors from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers; the National Press Club; the White House Correspondents Association; Investigative Reporters and Editors; and Associated Press Media Editors. Additionally, his work in recent years has been recognized with a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism; Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism; and Selden Ring Award for Investigative Journalism.

He is a frequent journalism trainer for media-related organizations, such as NewsTrain of Associated Press and Media Editors; Investigative Reporters and Editors; as well as the California Healthcare Foundation at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.  He’s a former adjunct professor for the graduate program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Contact me:

  • Work email at The Seattle Times: mberens@seattletimes.com
  • Work phone: 206-464-2288
  • Personal email: mbprojx@gmail.com
  • Or, course, leave a message on this site.

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Links to recent watchdog projects:

Methadone and Politics of Pain

A three-part investigative series with reporter Ken Armstrong that examines a cost-cutting state program that steered an inexpensive but riskier pain medication to the poor. The drug, methadone, is linked to thousands of accidental overdose deaths.

 

 

Seniors for Sale

A yearlong continuing series that examines Washington’s adult family home industry and unchecked abuse, including seniors who were literally sold as investments by profiteers. The series also focused on suspicious deaths that slipped through system cracks and a vast network of companies that fill empty beds (in adult homes; nursing homes; etc.) while collecting hefty commissions.

 

 

Culture of Resistance

This series revealed how inconsistent infection control standards fueled an alarming and lethal rise of an antibiotic-resistant germ, MRSA, which has infected and killed hundreds of hospital patients. The series with reporter Ken Armstrong led to a groundbreaking state law that requires hospitals to conduct a $20 test that can detect the latent germ – saving countless lives.

 

 

 

Miracle Machines

An investigative series that exposed how FDA lapses has allowed illegal and dangerous devices to be marketed as medical cures, spawning a multi-million dollar industry of fraud that has led to countless deaths. The series with reporter Christine Willmsen revealed that one manufacturer in Budapest was a federal fugitive (wanted on a warrant filed by the FDA) who had gained FDA approval to ship his device into the U.S. where it has been marketed as a cancer cure.

 

 

 

License to Harm

This series with reporters Julia Summerfeld and Carol Ostrom revealed that hundreds of health practitioners – doctors, nurses and counselors – were allowed to keep practicing after they had sexually preyed on patients. Discipline sometimes bordered on the absurd, such as a disciplined doctor who was deemed too dangerous to be alone with women under age 50 but was allowed unrestricted access to women age 51 and older.

 

 

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Just in case you’re worried about the future of journalism and concerned that watchdog reporters like me are a dying breed, I want to assure you that I have a Plan B, which I’ve honed since childhood. Yes, that’s me in the back row, second from the right near the elephant, sporting dark shorts, knee socks and jacket, feet curled outwards, as my mother promoted my career as a singer on a morning television show. My brother, Matt, sits in the front row in a matching outfit; he turned out to be a great singer, public speaker and a musician.

Now you know why I picked journalism.