Center for Investigative Reporting
|Method||Foundation and member-supported|
Christa Scharfenberg, CEO
Matt Thompson, Editor in Chief
Phil Bronstein, Executive Chair
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is a nonprofit news organization based in Emeryville, California, and has conducted investigative journalism since 1977. It is known for producing stories that reveal inequities, abuse and corruption — and hold those responsible accountable. In 2010, CIR launched its California Watch reporting project; in 2012, it merged with The Bay Citizen. In 2013, it launched an hour-long public radio program and podcast, Reveal, that airs on 470 public radio stations. The budget for the CIR was approximately $9.3 million in 2016. The current business model emphasizes cooperation with partners and other news outlets rather than competition. Phil Bronstein is the organization's executive chair.
David Weir, Dan Noyes, and Lowell Bergman founded the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting in 1977 in downtown Oakland, California. This was the first nonprofit news organization in America that was focused on investigative reporting. The Center's first large investigation exposed the criminal activity of the Black Panther Party, a subject the organization revisited in 2012.
In 1982, a story published in Mother Jones magazine revealed testing fraud in consumer products. The center worked together with the magazine to produce the story. The investigation won several awards, including Sigma Delta Chi and Investigative Reporters and Editors awards.
CIR began producing television documentaries in 1980 and has since produced more than 30 documentaries for Frontline and Frontline/World, dozens of reports for other television outlets and three independent feature documentaries. ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 60 Minutes have featured reporting from CIR. Major stories in the 1980s included studies of the toxicity of ordinary consumer products, an exposé of nuclear accidents in the world’s navies, and coverage of questionable tactics by the FBI during the Reagan administration.
In 1990, CIR produced its first independent TV documentary, Global Dumping Ground, reported by Bill Moyers on PBS’s Frontline. The film spurred federal investigations and was rebroadcast in at least 18 nations.
In 1992, CIR produced The Best Campaign Money Can Buy for Frontline, an investigation of the top funders of the presidential campaign. With correspondent Robert Krulwich. Produced by Stephen Talbot with reporters Eve Pell and Dan Noyes. The documentary won a DuPont/Columbia Journalism Award.
Other notable CIR reports included a look at the rise of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, as well as a study of education and race in an urban high school, "School Colors." An investigation for the New York Daily News and Fox's Front Page revealed lethal dangers in a common diet drug.
In 2005, the Center's investigations into wiretapping and data mining prompted Congressional hearings on privacy. The Center also exposed the forensic practices of the FBI that resulted in false imprisonments.
Robert J. Rosenthal became executive director of the Center in 2007. He had more than thirty years of experience as a journalist and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe and The New York Times.
In 2010, the Center released the documentary film, Dirty Business, which exposed the myth of clean coal and the lobbying tactics of the coal industry.
The organization's stories have regularly appeared in news outlets around the country and in California including NPR News, PBS Frontline, PBS NEWSHOUR, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Beast, Al Jazeera English and American Public Media's Marketplace.
In April 2012, it partnered with Google to host “TechRaking”, an informal conference that brought together journalists and technologists. In September 2012, the second “TechRaking” brought together journalists and gamers, at IGN in San Francisco.
Amy Pyle took the helm as Editor in Chief in 2015 after two decades of award-winning journalism at The Sacramento Bee, where she was Assistant Managing Editor/Projects and Investigations, and the Los Angeles Times, where she led coverage of the Northridge Earthquake from the parking lot of the quake-damaged San Fernando Valley office.
In February 2019, Matt Thompson was announced as the new Editor In Chief. Thompson currently is executive editor of The Atlantic, where he oversees major editorial projects and new initiatives, such as the launch of the magazine’s podcasting unit, membership strategy and talent development teams. In his time as deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, he helped lead the magazine’s digital team through three record-breaking years of audience growth. Previously, he was director of vertical initiatives for NPR, where he created several broadcast and digital journalism teams, including Code Switch and NPR Ed. He is a former board member of the Center for Public Integrity, where he served for eight years.
Merger with The Bay Citizen
In 2009, the Center for Investigative Reporting created California Watch, a reporting team dedicated to state-focused stories. Its website launched in 2010. Editorial director Mark Katches explained that the site would function as a watchdog team focusing on government oversight, criminal justice, education, health and the environment. In 2010, the Online News Association honored California Watch with a general excellence award. In 2012, California Watch won the George Polk Award for its series on Medicare billing fraud. The authors of the series were Christina Jewett, Lance Williams and Stephen Doig. California Watch also was a Pulitzer finalist for its "On Shaky Ground" series by Corey G. Johnson, Erica Perez, Kendall Taggart and Agustin Armendariz. The series detailed flaws in state oversight of seismic safety at K-12 schools. The "On Shaky Ground" reporting team won a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for Public Service. California Watch won a second Polk award in 2012, this time for Ryan Gabrielson's series about the failures of a unique police force to solve crimes committed against the developmentally disabled living in state board-and-care hospitals. The series also won an Online Journalism Award from the Online News Association.
In August 2012, the Center for Investigative Reporting created “The I Files” channel on YouTube. The Knight Foundation provided an $800,000 grant to make the channel possible. The channel, renamed as Reveal, presents investigative videos produced by CIR and from a variety of news outlets, including The New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera English, ABC News, National Public Radio, and members organizations of the Investigative News Network.
Reveal utilizes multiple digital platforms to get its information out to the world on its website. The radio program which the website is named after airs on 470 radio stations in the Public Radio Exchange network and the show is also available in podcast form. The main website for Reveal contains links to each podcast episode, video, and multimedia story shared by the outlet. Each video is also available on their YouTube channel, and all the podcasts can be subscribed to via the usual podcast outlets. Reveal is active on social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. The outlet also has a blog, Dig, where the staff posts about internal updates and how they created data-driven stories.
All of CIR's digital reporting is now available on Reveal's website where the CIR shares podcasts, videos, and many data-driven investigative projects.
The Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit so it relies heavily on foundation grants and individual donations to fund its efforts. In addition to publishing reports directly on its site, the Center produces content for a wide range of other news outlets, including local TV affiliates, newspapers, public radio, and PBS. More recently, the Center has invested in multimedia, particularly video, as a means of reaching bigger audiences and producing a new revenue stream. In general the CIR only accepts donations from individuals or groups who are not affiliated with government officials or political parties.
Awards and recognition
In 2012, the Center for Investigative Reporting received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Leadership. The award is a monetary prize from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Center received a prize of $1 million. Executive Director Robert Rosenthal explained that the money would go toward new forms of video distribution. With the prize, the Center also plans to improve its technology and create a fund for innovative projects in the future.
CIR stories have received numerous journalism awards including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, George Polk Award, Emmy Award, Scripps Howard Award and numerous Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards. Additionally, it received a Peabody Award in 2013 for the Reveal show "The VA's Opiate Overload". In 2012, its “On Shaky Ground” investigation was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
- The Boomerang Crime, by David Weir, Mark Shapiro and Terry Jacobs. Published in Mother Jones.
- ABC's 20/20 airs a CIR investigation of a fundraising organization for the UN International Year of the Child that found ties to gun and drug trafficking.
- Operation Wigwam exposed the cover up of potential ill effects from an underwater nuclear test in the Pacific Ocean.
- Citizen Scaife, by Karen Rothmyer, appears in the Columbia Journalism Review and The Washington Post.
- The Illusion of Safety, by Douglas Foster and Mark Dowie. Appears in Mother Jones.
- The Bad Drug, a report featured on 60 Minutes about the dangers of blood pressure drug Selacryn.
- The Nuclear Navy, an explosive report on the thirty-year history of naval nuclear accidents, makes headlines worldwide.
- The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed by Phil Bronstein. Published in Esquire.
- The Best Campaign Money Can Buy, an investigation of top donors to the presidential race, produced for Frontline by Stephen Talbot.
- The Heartbeat of America, an investigation of General Motors produced for Frontline. Producer: Stephen Talbot.
- Who's Watching the Watchdog, a look at the Better Business Bureau, by Richard H.P. Sia.
- Hot Guns, a Frontline and CIR story on cheap handguns.
- Justice for Sale, explores corruption in America's court system. Producers: Stephen Talbot and Sheila Kaplan.
- Tobacco Traffic, by Mark Schapiro and producer Oriana Zill de Granados, explores illegal smuggling. Print story “Big Tobacco” appears in The Nation.
- Reasonable Doubt, a CNN documentary on shoddy forensic science at the FBI.
- No Place to Hide, by Robert O’Harrow Jr., an investigation of government data mining as part of the war on terror.
- Conflicts on the Bench, reveals ethics violations by Bush court nominees. Will Evans partnered with Salon.com.
- Banished, an independent film on race relations in small towns, produced by CIR, premieres at 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
- The Chauncey Bailey Project, a joint investigation made possible by the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the Newspaper Guild and The California Endowment. Investigators sought answers in the assassination of editor Chauncey Bailey.
- Carbon Watch, a project tracking various aspects of global warming science and policy.
- The Civil Rights Cold Case Project, a team effort involving CIR, the Concordia Sentinel, The Clarion-Ledger, the Anniston Star, the Detroit Free Press, hungryblues.net, and Paperny Films of Vancouver, BC.
- Dirty Business, a documentary film narrated by Big Coal author Jeff Goodell.
- Worst Charities, is a series that began with a joint investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the CIR in 2012 uncovering the worst charities in the US. Their 2013 report, "America’s 50 Worst Charities" ranked Kids Wish Network as the worst, and the Cancer Fund of America as number 2 on the list.
- "Contact Us: Center for Investigative Reporting".
- Jill Drew. "The New Investogators". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "About Us". Reveal. 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
- "Our History". Reveal. 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
- "CIR History" (PDF). Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "Our History - The Center for Investigative Reporting".
- "Bergman". Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "CIR Facts" (PDF). Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Dowie, Mark; Foster, Douglas; Marshall, Carolyn; Weir, David; King, Jonathan (June 1982), The Illusion of Safety, retrieved 4 January 2013
- "Reasonable Doubt". CNN Presents. 5 November 2000. CNNhttp://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0511/05/cp.01.html
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- Robert John Rosenthal, The Complete Marquis Who’s Who, 8 August 2012
- Megan Garber (28 February 2012). "Google and the News, Part 2,389: The Company Is Co-Hosting a Conference on Investigative Reporting and Tech". Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Dru Sefton (14 August 2012). "Center for Investigative Reporting, Univision announce partnership". Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Andrew Beaujon (27 March 2012). "It's official: Bay Citizen, Center for Investigative Reporting will merge". The Poynter Institute. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Dan Fost (29 March 2012). "Merger Likely to Mean Major Shift in Bay Citizen Coverage". The Bay Citizen. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Pete Basofin (5 January 2010). "California Watch Launches with Investigations and Data". The Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on 8 January 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Martin Langeveld (5 January 2010). "California Watch: The latest entrant in the dot-org journalism boom". Nieman Journalism Lab. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Rachel McAthy (2 August 2012). "Investigative news channel 'The I Files' launches on YouTube". Mousetrap Media. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Gregory Ferenstein (1 August 2012). "YouTube Gets An Investigative News Channel". Tech Crunch. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Gianna Walton (12 April 2012). "CIR announces new YouTube channel for investigative journalism". World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "PRX » Group » Reveal". PRX - Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
- Chris Rauber (14 April 2010). "Investigative reporting center wins $440K grant for community health coverage". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Andrew Beaujon (16 February 2012). "CIR's plan for MacArthur million". The Poynter Institute. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Kevin Roderick (16 February 2012). "Morning Buzz". LA Observed. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Justin Berton (16 February 2012). "Berkeley group gets $1 million journalism grant". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
- "Interview: Dan Noyes, Center for Investigative Reporting". Archived from the original on 17 August 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Rothmyer, Karen (July 1981), Citizen Scaife, 20 (2), p. 41
- "DRUG MAKER PLEADS GUILTY OVER LETHAL SIDE EFFECTS". The New York Times. 14 December 1984. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Bronstein, Phil (February 11, 2013). "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed". Esquire. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
- Dori J. Maynard (14 June 2011). "Chauncey Bailey Project: A Journalistic Collaboration". Maynard Institute. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Stanley Nelson. "The Team". The Civil Rights Cold Case Project. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Robert J. Rosenthal. "The Enduring Ambition of the Civil Rights Cold Case Project". Nieman Reports. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Felicity Carus (7 February 2011). "Dirty Business film debunks 'clean coal' myth". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Hundley, Kris; Taggart, Kendall (October 2, 2017) . "America's 50 worst charities rake in nearly $1 billion for corporate fundraiser". Tampa Bay Times. Times/CIR special report.
America's Worst Charities: You've given them more than $1 billion. They've given almost nothing to the needy
- "PRX » Series » Reveal Weekly". PRX - Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
- SPECIAL REPORT: Amid Newsroom Cutbacks Are 'Watchdogs' Still Awake? And Can Outsiders Fill the Gaps?
- California Watch Teams Up with KQED to Air Investigative Reports
- California Watch Says 'Yes' to Open, Networked Investigative Reports
- CIR's Rosenthal on Origins of California Watch: The Idea Was to Become Part of a New Media Model
- Non-Profit News Publisher Helps Readers Dig for Stories
- Can Newspaper Muckraking Carry On in Nonprofits?
- Center for Investigative Reporting website