J-School alum wins 2024 George Polk Award for National Reporting with ProPublica colleagues

Alex Mierjeski, ’17 M.S. Data Journalism, shares the National Reporting award with other staff members at ProPublica.

February 20, 2024

A Columbia Journalism alum has won a 2024 George Polk Award for his work on a series about the questionable ethics of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Alex Mierjeski, ’17 M.S. Data Journalism, shares the National Reporting award with other staff members at ProPublica. He has been working at this non-profit newsroom since 2018, after serving as a research fellow at Columbia following graduation.

Mierjeski and his colleagues – Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, Brett Murphy and the staff of ProPublica – were cited “for revealing secret, lavish and highly questionable gifts that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has received for decades from wealthy benefactors,” according to a news release from Long Island University, home of the awards program.

The citation continues, “The team also documented the court's lack of any meaningful approach to policing ethical transgressions like those seemingly committed by Justice Thomas and by fellow Justice Samuel Alito, who accepted a free Alaskan fishing trip from a hedge fund magnate and failed to recuse himself from a case involving his patron.”

Mierjeski and ProPublica have been reporting on the questionable ethics of the justices since early 2023, beginning with Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire and Lawmakers Call for Investigation and Ethics Reforms in Response to ProPublica Report on Clarence Thomas, both published on April 6. 

The George Polk Awards were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war. The awards, which place a premium on investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results, are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. 

The latest winners were selected from 497 submissions of work that appeared in print, online or on television or radio, nominated by news organizations and individuals or recommended by a national panel of advisors. 

To celebrate the 75th anniversary, the university is inviting all previous recipients, thought to number about 600 and to include many alumni of Columbia Journalism School, to join this year's winners at a luncheon sponsored by CBS in Manhattan April 12. See the university’s news release for more information.