Investigative Reporting Workshop

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Investigative Reporting Workshop
Investigative Reporting Workshop.png
Founded March 2008
Founder Charles Lewis
Wendell Cochran
Type 501(c)(3)
Focus Investigative Journalism
Method Foundation and Member Supported
Slogan Journalism, Research, Innovation

The Investigative Reporting Workshop is a nonprofit, investigative news organization focusing on significant issues of public concern.

The Workshop is an incubator and laboratory for original, nonpartisan watchdog reporting. As a professional journalism center in the School of Communication at American University, the Investigative Reporting Workshop is one of 18 university-based investigative journalism centers in the nation and the only one in Washington, D.C.[1] The Workshop mentors and enables the work of a new generation of investigative reporters while also enlarging the public space for the leading journalists of our time.

Long-term projects include coverage of the banking and credit union industries,[2][3] illegal immigration and the administration's enforcement policies;[4] and the telecommunications industry, particularly as it relates to the digital divide between rich and poor.

The Workshop collaborates with other media outlets as publishing partners, and those include (formerly, Frontline, The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Journal, The Daily Beast, New America Media and McClatchy Newspapers, among others.



The nonprofit was founded by American University professors Charles Lewis, a national investigative journalist for more than 30 years, and Wendell Cochran, a longtime business reporter and editor, in the spring of 2008; the publishing of original content began the spring of 2009. Lewis, a former producer for "60 Minutes,” founded four nonprofits in Washington, including the Center for Public Integrity, and has written six books, including “The Buying of the President 2004,” and is a MacArthur Fellow. He is executive editor. Cochran, who recently retired, was a business reporter, editor and journalism faculty member.


Lynne Perri, former deputy managing editor for graphics and photography at USA TODAY and a former reporter and editor at The Tampa Tribune, is managing editor. Margaret Ebrahim, a former “60 Minutes II” and "ABC News" investigative producer, now serves as a senior producer for the Workshop. Lewis is a tenured faculty member in the School of Communication at American University. Cochran retired from the university in 2013.

John Sullivan, a Pulitzer Prize winner from The Philadelphia Inquirer, joined the Workshop as a senior editor in May 2013 to spearhead a new partnership between the Workshop and The Washington Post. He also teaches an investigative practicum at the graduate level inside the Post, pairing graduate students with staffers on the investigative team. David Donald, formerly of The Center for Public Integrity, joined the Workshop in the fall of 2014 in a new position as data editor. He has been a longtime trainer for Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. Donald also joins the faculty at the School of Communication as data journalist in-residence.


The model for the Workshop is the Children's Television Workshop, which originally was created to produce “Sesame Street,” but became an incubator and innovator for much of educational television.

Advisory Board[edit]

The Workshop Advisory Board consists of 13 journalists from five continents.[5]

Notable Work[edit]

Investigating Power[edit]

The online, multimedia project, Investigating Power showcases more than 50 hours of interviews with distinguished journalists. This project documents “truth to power” moments in contemporary U.S. history and the careers of notable journalists since the 1950s. It is a part of a larger project and book, “The Future of Truth,” by Charles Lewis, the former "60 Minutes" producer.

What Went Wrong[edit]

An 18-month series, “What Went Wrong: the Betrayal of the American Dream,” by James Steele and Don Barlett, of Vanity Fair and formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer, with contributions by Kat Aaron, Michael Lawson and other Workshop staffers. The series documents how 40 years of public policy and Wall Street business practices have conspired against working people. Barlett and Steele's new book, "The Betrayal of the American Dream," researched with the help of Workshop staff, was released Aug. 1, 2012, and was on both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times best-seller lists. In December 2012, the Workshop published the story of Momentive, a chemical company in upstate New York that was bought out by a private-equity firm. Kat Aaron’s two-year investigation included onsite interviews and a review of more than 1,000 pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.


In March 2012, the Workshop published another in a series of stories on the digital divide. The project, led by the John Dunbar, the former director of Connected, the Workshop's Media and Broadband Project, looked at states with the most and least broadband subscribership rates. Nationwide, the Workshop survey found that 40 percent of households did not have broadband connection in the home through December 2010.


FRONTLINE documentaries[edit]

The Workshop has an ongoing partnership with the PBS program Frontline. Productions include "Flying Cheap" a documentary about the impact of the major carriers’ reliance on regional airlines and their pilots, which won a Screen Actors Guild Award for writing; a follow-up, “Flying Cheaper,” a follow-up about the impact of outsourcing maintenance on planes; and “Lost in Detention,” a documentary that chronicled the administration’s enforcement policy, which has deported 400,000 people annually the last two years and put thousands in detention centers with legal representation, often splitting up families in which the children are U.S. citizens. In 2012 and 2013, the Workshop also co-produced "Big Sky, Big Money," which chronicles campaign finance in Montana; "The Digital Campaign," about the 2012 presidential race; and "Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria," a look at the pervasive problem of drug resistant infestions in hospitals.

Years of Living Dangerously[edit]

Producers Margaret Ebrahim and Jolie Lee spent more than a year working on "Years of Living Dangerously," a Showtime documentary about climate change and the impact it has on people around the world.

Senior Producer Margaret Ebrahim developed two stories for a new documentary series on climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, which began airing on Showtime in April 2014. Associate Producer Jolie Lee is a graduate of American University's Interactive Journalism master's program.

National Awards[edit]

Scripps Howard Awards[edit]

In March 2012, the Workshop was named a “finalist” in the Business/Economics Reporting category of the Scripps Howard Awards for the project, "What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream." The series, spearheaded by Kat Aaron as project editor, with reporters Jim Steele and Don Barlett as well as contributions from the staff, focused on how policies in Washington and on Wall Street have hurt Americans for far longer than the most recent recession.

Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW)[edit]

In March 2010, the Workshop's Wendell Cochran, Matt Waite, Richard Mullins, Lynne Perri and Lisa Hill were recognized for "BankTracker," in the category of "Best in Business Online" for "Creative Use of the Online Medium, small websites, 2009."

Society of Professional Journalists[edit]

Executive Editor Charles Lewis and Hilary Niles, a former Workshop intern, wrote "Measuring Impact: The art, science and mystery of nonprofit news assessment," which has received a 2013 Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in the "Research about Journalism" category.

In 2010, the Workshop, along with Frontline, received a Society of Professional Journalists award in the Television category for its “Flying Cheap: Regional airlines cut cost of flying, at what price?” documentary. The Sigma Delta Chi Awards for Excellence in Journalism recognize distinguished service to the American people and the profession of journalism through outstanding accomplishments.

iLab Division[edit]

Through the center’s iLab division, the Workshop conducts research on and experiments with new models for doing and delivering investigative journalism. iLab’s efforts helped lead to the development of the Investigative News Network and aided the establishment of several other nonprofit news groups.

Through iLab, the Workshop has tracked and published two major reports on the new nonprofit journalism ecosystem, and efforts to uncover what is happening in North Korea with its poor citizens. Lewis has written more than 20 articles about the new nonprofit journalism ecosystem.

Reports and Filing[edit]

IRS Filing[edit]

The Workshop operates under the 501(c)(3) designation of American University.


The Investigative Reporting Workshop does not accept corporate or government support, and instead relies on private foundations and public supporters to continue to build upon its work. It has been declared tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service, which means donations to the organization are tax-deductible.


A list of the foundations that have made grants to the Workshop since its inception in May 2008:

  • Challenge Fund for Journalism VI
  • Deer Creek Foundation
  • Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation
  • Otto Haas Charitable Trust
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Litowitz Foundation
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • The Park Foundation
  • Public Welfare Foundation
  • Rockefeller Family and Associates
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • The Fund for Constitutional Government
  • The Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • The V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation
  • The MacArthur Foundation
  • The Ford Foundation
  • The McCormick Foundation
  • The Streisand Foundation
  • The Wyncote Foundation
  • Donna Mae Litowitz
  • Victor Elmaleh
  • Arthur Lipson
  • Jack Block
  • R. Beattie

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "College-based investigative journalism". Investigative Reporters and Editors. Retrieved February 26, 2014
  2. ^ "Credit unions still recovering but worries linger". IRW. December 10, 2013
  3. ^ "Bank Tracker: Five-Year Review". IRW. October 29, 2013
  4. ^ "Will immigrant detainees get protection from abuse?". IRW. February 2, 2012
  5. ^ "Staff and Advisory Board". IRW. February 25, 2014