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The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is a nonprofit news organization based in Emeryville, California; it has conducted investigative journalism since 1977. It is known for reporting that reveals inequities, abuse and corruption, and holds 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 Center for Investigative Reporting in 1977. Its offices were located in downtown Oakland, California. This was the first nonprofit news organization in the United States to be focused on investigative reporting. The Center's first large investigation exposed the criminal activity of the Black Panther Party. The organization revisited this subject in 2012.
CIR began producing television documentaries in 1980. It 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 investigations in the 1980s resulted in reporting 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 administration of President Ronald Reagan.
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 that year's presidential campaign. It featured correspondent Robert Krulwich, and was produced by Stephen Talbot with reporters Eve Pell and Dan Noyes. The documentary won a DuPont/Columbia Journalism Award.
Other notable CIR reports included an investigation of General Motors, one on the rise of conservative media figure Rush Limbaugh and another on Congressman Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), 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 stimulated Congressional hearings on privacy issues. The Center also exposed the forensic practices of the FBI that resulted in wrongful convictions and imprisonments.
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.
CIR announced a partnership with Univision News in 2012 to bring investigative stories to Hispanic households in the United States.
became Editor in Chief in 2015 after two decades of award-winning journalism. She had worked 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 newspaper's parking lot of the quake-damaged San Fernando Valley office.
In February 2019, was announced as the new Editor In Chief. Thompson was formerly the executive editor of The Atlantic. He oversaw major editorial projects and new initiatives, such as the launch of the magazine's podcasting unit, membership strategy, and talent development teams. During his time as deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, he helped lead the magazine's digital team through three record-breaking years of audience growth. Prior to The Atlantic, 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.
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 said that the site would act 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.
Reveal uses multiple digital platforms to publish its information from 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; it relies strongly 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 larger audiences and producing a new revenue stream. In general the CIR accepts donations only 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. The Center also plans to improve its technology and create a fund for future innovative projects.
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.. CIR was also finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for a piece on drug rehab facilities in Oklahoma. CIR was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the Explanatory Reporting category for a 2019 piece on Redlining in the mortgage industry.
"The Boomerang Crime," by David Weir, Mark Shapiro and Terry Jacobs. Published in Mother Jones.
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. They expanded their investigation in 2013, reporting "America’s 50 Worst Charities".
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