Senior Writer John M. Donnelly Wins Dirksen Award

Donnelly is 20th journalist to have worked at CQ or Roll Call to win

John M. Donnelly is a senior writer covering defense for CQ Roll Call. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)


CQ Roll Call senior writer John M. Donnelly has won the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress for his coverage of national security and foreign policy.

The Dirksen Award, presented by the National Press Foundation, is given annually to a journalist whose reporting gives insight into Congress and “represents the highest standards of journalism.” Donnelly is the 20th journalist to have worked at CQ or Roll Call to win the award.

“Donnelly’s reporting demonstrates outstanding mastery of the defense beat,” the judges said. “He methodically hammers away at questionable defense spending and Pentagon assertions through painstaking reporting on legislation and military arcana.”

He won the prize with stories that dove into defense and oversight issues, including a look at how defense hawks in Congress were misleading when they said a spike in deadly accidents in 2017 involving U.S. military ships and planes was part of a pattern of rising wrecks that required higher spending.

Donnelly also reported on lawmakers continuing to fund a pricey class of high-tech destroyers. On a quick deadline, he covered an obscure Pentagon fund that became a catchall for lawmakers’ pet projects after the ban on earmarks took effect.

Donnelly has covered his beat for CQ Roll Call since 2004. He previously was a reporter and editor for 10 years at Defense Week, a newsletter that covered the Pentagon and defense industry. He has also written on national security issues for other publications, including The Economist and the Los Angeles Times.

“John shines a light in dark corners and exposes themes and trends that deserve much more attention,” CQ editor and vice president Catalina Camia said. His stories “show how lawmakers take care of their own political interests, whether or not it serves the public good.”

Donnelly will receive the award and a $5,000 prize at the National Press Foundation dinner on Feb. 13.

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