Cheryl W. Thompson is an investigative correspondent for NPR and senior editor overseeing member station investigations.
Since becoming the inaugural editor of the stations investigations team in 2021, where she is a player/coach, she has collaborated with member stations in Texas, California, Illinois, Missouri, Montana and Oregon, and with Columbia University and several nonprofits, to do award-winning work, including “Hot Days: Heat’s Mounting Death Toll on Workers in the U.S.,” an investigation into how Black and brown workers in the U.S. were dying on the job for lack of water and shade breaks. That series won several awards in 2022, including an IRE and National Headliner. An examination of racial covenants still on the books throughout the U.S. won a National Headliner award and an award from the National Association of Black Journalists. An investigation into deaths at tribal jails won awards from PMJA and the Native American Journalists Association.
She also served as the investigative reporting coach on the “No Compromise” podcast that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting. That same year, NPR honored her with the Public Service Journalism award given annually to one journalist. She served as a Pulitzer juror for investigative reporting in 2022.
Prior to joining NPR in January 2019, Thompson spent 22 years at The Washington Post, where she wrote extensively about law enforcement, political corruption and guns, and was a White House correspondent during Barack Obama’s first term. Her investigative series that traced the guns used to kill more than 500 police officers in the U.S. earned her an Emmy, a National Headliner, an IRE, a White House News Photographers Association and other awards. In 2015, her reporting found that nearly one person a week died in the U.S. after being Tasered by police. The story was part of a yearlong series on police shootings in the U.S. that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
In 2017, her examination of Howard University Hospital revealed myriad problems with the storied facility, including that it had the highest rate of death lawsuits per bed than the five other D.C. hospitals. Her project published in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine in May 2018 investigated the unsolved serial murders of six black girls in the nation’s capital nearly 50 years ago; it later won an SPJ DC award for magazine feature writing and an NABJ award for investigative reporting. She has won numerous other national awards, and was named NABJ’s Educator of the Year in 2017 for her teaching and mentoring at George Washington University. She was part of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2002 for coverage of Sept. 11.
Thompson is the immediate past president and chairman of Investigative Reporters and Editors, a 6,000-member organization whose mission is to improve the quality of investigative journalism. In 2018, she became the first Black elected president in its 43-year history and served for three terms before being elected board chairman in 2021. She also teaches investigative reporting as an associate professor at GWU, where she founded a student NABJ chapter in 2014.