MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Center for Investigative Reporting

Berkeley, California | 2012 Award Recipient

Changing the World Through Investigative Reporting

In today’s media landscape, much of what passes for “news” is, in fact, commentary, opinion, or invective. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is different. It produces powerful stories, arming the public with thoroughly investigated facts and deep explanations of complex issues, such as the environment, immigration, government accountability, education, health, and campaign financing.

Since 1977, CIR has been on the forefront of nonprofit investigative reporting—reporting on the larger systems, power dynamics and forces that shape the world. It enables citizens to demand accountability from government, corporations and others in power. Its staff includes highly skilled journalists with expertise in source cultivation and finding hidden documents; analysts and producers who create sophisticated data and interactive tools to help the public understand issues from the macro to the micro level; and radio, video and digital producers who create engaging documentaries and web videos to demystify complex topics. CIR’s distribution, community engagement and social media team then works to promote and disseminate this information across hundreds of outlets to engage the public and reach broad audiences with its reporting.

Over the years, these stories have sparked federal legislation, policy change at all levels of government, public interest lawsuits, reforms in corporate practices and a major United Nations resolution. For example, in 2011

A Senate committee launched a probe after a CIR investigation found that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has done little to improve the nation’s intelligence data.

A police chief resigned amidst an FBI investigation and murderers were convicted following dogged reporting by The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaboration of dozens of news organizations managed by CIR’s executive director which investigated the murder of theOakland Post editor by a corrupt group he was reporting on.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed two new bills following California Watch stories produced by CIR. One bill prevents unfair seizures of vehicles from immigrants, and the other removes lead-tainted products—many marketed to children—from store shelves. CIR’s exemplary work is distributed through hundreds of news outlets every year, such as FRONTLINE, NPR, The Washington Post and The Daily Beast. It has also been recognized with an Emmy and other prestigious journalism awards.

CIR is committed to “story before glory.” Rather than compete with other news organizations, it brings media partners together to collaborate on big stories. For example, CIR partnered with NPR for an investigation into intelligence gathering 10 years after the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, in California, CIR is leading a collaboration of 12 media outlets to report on a proposed $98 billion high-speed rail system, which would be the most expensive public works project in the nation. Such partnerships exponentially increase the reporting capacity, audience reach, and potential policy impact of CIR’s reporting.

The Center will use its $1 million MacArthur Award to create a venture fund for new projects, strengthen its fundraising capacity, upgrade its technology infrastructure, and establish a reserve fund for legal defense.


Grantee Profile: Learn more about the Center for Investigative Reporting

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