Dying Alone
Coronavirus in America’s
nursing homes

Students in the Medill Investigative Lab have been working with journalists at The Washington Post to tell the story of the coronavirus in America’s nursing homes.

51Lives MILImage

MIL students produced 51 profiles of nursing home residents who died during the coronavirus pandemic — one from every state and Washington, D.C. The stories were published in The Washington Post in December 2020.

Medill Investigative Lab
Revelatory Social Justice Reporting
A team of student journalists from the Medill Investigative Lab interview a family in Indian Country devastated by opioid abuse. Students tracked the use and abuse of pain pills in the Pacific Northwest and efforts by Native American tribes to combat overdose deaths.

Our Mission: The Medill Investigative Lab probes power brokers and programs that promise to provide a safety net to tens of millions of vulnerable Americans. Through real-time, on-the-ground reporting in Chicago and beyond, students learn to think, research and write like an investigative reporter, producing groundbreaking social justice stories from the ground up.

Our Team
: Undergraduate and graduate students at Medill apply to take part in the lab and spend two terms – one in Evanston or Chicago and one in Washington, D.C. — working side-by-side with veteran journalists on an investigation of national importance. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Debbie Cenziper, a contributing writer at The Washington Post and director of investigative reporting at Medill, oversees the lab. An advisory board made up of some of the nation’s top journalists provide guidance.

Our Classes
: The lab complements a lineup of undergraduate and graduate classes at Medill that include Introduction to Investigative Reporting, Local Reporting, Multi-Media Storytelling, Magazine Reporting and Data Journalism. Medill’s classes are taught by top professors who are experts in their fields.

Sidnee King
  • MIL class 2020
  • MIL fellow 2020
  • Lead author of “Near birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., a predominantly Black nursing home tries to heal after outbreak,” The Washington Post, 9/9/20

"Working on the project was truly the most valuable reporting experience I have ever had. I learned and grew more than I could ever have imagined, both as a journalist and as a person. I felt genuinely moved by many of the stories I was able to tell; some of them even impacted the ways I think about my own life. I will remember them for a long time."

Cadence Quaranta
  • MIL class 2021

  • MIL intern 2020

  • One of the lead authors of “51 Lives: A portrait of the pandemic’s tragic toll in America’s nursing homes,” The Washington Post, 12/22/20

Debbie Cenziper

Debbie Cenziper is an associate professor and the director of investigative reporting at Medill. She also oversees the Medill Investigative Lab. Besides teaching, Cenziper is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and nonfiction author who writes for The Washington Post. She spent three years at The George Washington University before joining the faculty of Medill.

Over the years, Cenziper’s investigative stories have exposed wrongdoing, prompted Congressional hearings and led to changes in federal and local laws. In her classes at Medill, Cenziper and her students focus on social justice investigative reporting.

Cenziper has won dozens of awards in American print journalism, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award for reporting about human rights and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 at The Miami Herald for a series of stories about corrupt affordable housing developers who were stealing from the poor. A year before that, she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for stories about dangerous breakdowns in the nation’s hurricane-tracking system.

Cenziper is a frequent speaker at universities, writing conferences and book events. Her first book, “Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality,” (William Morrow, 2016) was named one of the most notable books of the year by The Washington Post. Her second book, “Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America,” was released by Hachette Books in November 2019.

Cenziper is based on Medill’s Washington, D.C. campus, working with undergraduate and graduate students on investigative stories.