Seattle Times reporter Ken Armstrong wins a major national award for his body of work.

Seattle Times reporter Ken Armstrong has won a major national award for his more than 20-year reporting career.

Armstrong, the recipient of the 2009 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, was selected for the depth and impact of his coverage of the criminal-justice system over his career, the journalism school at Columbia University announced Wednesday. The award includes a $25,000 prize.

An investigative reporter at The Seattle Times,Armstrong, 46, co-reported stories on illegally sealed court records; substandard criminal-justice practices in rural Eastern Washington; the rise and risk of the MRSA pathogen at Washington hospitals; and how unabashed embrace of a town’s football team can compromise judges, police, prosecutors, a leading university — and the media.

At the Chicago Tribune, Armstrong co-reported a series that resulted in the governor’s putting a moratorium on executions in that state in 2000, and commutation of 164 death sentences, full pardons for four other death-row inmates and dropped charges against another.

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

He has won numerous other national reporting awards and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize four times in a career spanning newspapers from Virginia to Alaska.

“Ken Armstrong is an extraordinary example of the best of our profession,” said Times Executive Editor David Boardman.

“His work has made a lasting impression on the communities, big and small, in which he has lived and worked. He writes with force about people with power and writes with sensitivity about people journalists tend to dismiss.”

A self-proclaimed “shy person,” Armstrong is known in the newsroom for his modesty and generous spirit. Asked how he felt Wednesday, Armstrong, typically, said: “It makes me realize how lucky I’ve been to be able to work with so many great reporters and editors, and when working on stories, I’ve been given time and space.

“I don’t know what more you could ask for.”

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or