Renee Ferguson, BA’71, was the first African-American woman to work as an investigative reporter in Chicago and is co-founder of the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
A television journalist and investigative reporter, Ferguson’s writing roots trace back to her adolescence, even before she attended IU.
Her junior high school named her Most Likely to be a Journalist. Ferguson always wanted to be a writer, and living up to her middle school superlative, she has told countless stories over her career.
At IU, she covered the student unrest at Jackson State and Kent State universities, and worked as a Washington Post student intern during the summer of 1970. She was a member of the Tau chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the National Honor Society, and was on the Dean’s List. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1971.
Ferguson worked in Indianapolis as a writer for The Indianapolis Star and then as a news reporter for the television station WLWI-TV.
In 1980, she was a network news correspondent for CBS News in New York City and Atlanta. Ferguson returned to Chicago in 1987, joining the UNIT 5 investigative team at NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV.
She was a 2006-07 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, where she attended seminars, shop talks, master classes and journalism conferences designed to empower fellows to lead and learn. She served on the board of Investigative Reporters and Editors from 2006-2008.
Even when she retired from full-time reporting, Ferguson didn’t stop investigating. During her career in Chicago, she discovered an innocent man named Tyrone Hood incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. Despite years of records-searching and reporting, nothing changed. The case still bothered her even after her retirement, though, and eventually Ferguson asked then-outgoing Gov. Patrick Quinn to pardon Hood. He did, and Hood was released from prison.
Ferguson has investigated strip searches of women of color at O’Hare Airport by U.S. Customs officials, sexual harassment at Chicago’s Ford Motor Plant, the deaths of children involved in a clinical drug trial, a high school undercover investigation of drug and alcohol abuse, and gun and drug sales held in the property room of the Gary, Indiana, police department.
She is the recipient of seven Chicago Emmy Awards, the DuPont Award, the Gracie Award, the Associated Press Award for Best Investigative Reporting and many other recognitions.
She has reported across fields and time zones, interviewing leaders such as former President Barack Obama, professional boxer and activist Muhammad Ali and basketball great Michael Jordan.