Founding Director, Michael I. Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism; Professor of Practice
Research and Creative Interests
- Investigative Journalism
Kathleen Johnston is the founding director of IU’s Michael I. Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism. Johnston graduated from IU in 1982 with a degree in journalism and political science. Since then, she has worked at numerous national and local news organizations, from The Indianapolis News to CNN, the Birmingham Post-Herald to CBS. Johnston’s work spans a breadth of topics and media, but her primary focus is investigative reporting.
At CNN, she broke the news about allegations that medical workers may have euthanized patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She uncovered Medicare fraud in the medical devices business and a scheme that wasted tax dollars along the Canadian border, resulting in the cancellation of a $32 million Department of Homeland Security contract. After her team’s yearlong investigation into Congress’ refusal to disclose its spending earmarks, Congress began publishing the earmarks. The team won the National Press Foundation’s Everett McKinley Dirksen Award and a national Emmy for its coverage.
At WTHR in Indianapolis, Johnston co-managed a five-member team that won more than 40 national, state and local awards, including the station’s first DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, for its coverage of mismanagement of the fortune of Lilly pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly.
She has produced several documentaries, including the acclaimed “Footnotes of 9/11,” which was released just before the event’s 10-year anniversary. Other documentaries uncovered the unsafe infrastructure of cruise ships and the dangerous world of professional wrestling.
Her work at the Indianapolis News led to changes in the state’s open records law. In 2004 Johnston was awarded Sagamore of the Wabash, the state’s highest civilian award, for her long-time reporting in Indiana.
She has won numerous regional and national honors, including Emmy, Peabody, DuPont, and Murrow awards. In 2017, she received The Media School’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Johnston has been involved with the development of the curriculum for the Arnolt Center since the start of the 2018-19 academic year.