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Dashed Dreams

Jan. 25, 2015

This three-part series looks at the plight of the black middle class, particularly in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, the nation’s highest-income majority-black county. 

Although African Americans have made once-unthinkable political and social gains since the civil rights era, the severe and continuing damage wrought by the downturn — an entire generation of wealth was wiped out — has raised a vexing question: Why don’t black middle-class families enjoy the same level of economic security as their white counterparts?

USAID's Watchdog

Oct. 23, 2014

The inspector general’s office removed many critical findings and had increasingly become a defender of the agency under the acting inspector general, employees said. The USAID inspector general is responsible for ensuring that the billions of dollars the agency devotes to foreign assistance programs each year are spent wisely. The agency hires nongovernmental organizations and private contractors to carry out its projects, which include improving medical facilities, stabilizing economies and rebuilding war-wrecked nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dollars and Deals

Oct. 14, 2014

WAMU and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University examined more than a thousand contracts — worth an estimated $10 billion — that went to the D.C. Council for approval from January 2007 to January 2014.

From simple grass-cutting jobs to complicated D.C. Lottery services worth tens of millions of dollars, Council members have the final say over lucrative contracts. WAMU and the Workshop identified more than $5 million in political contributions from more than 300 firms with Council-approved contracts from 2005 to 2014. Roughly half of the contractors’ campaign cash was donated to lawmakers within a year of their contracts getting approved. The money was a crucial source of fundraising as well: Roughly one-fifth of Council members’ campaign contributions analyzed by WAMU came from firms seeking their approval for city contracts.

Contributions were often made months and weeks ahead of when the contracts were voted on; in some cases, the campaign checks were dated the same day a firm’s lucrative contract was sent to the Council for approval.

The Trouble with Antibiotics

Oct. 8, 2014

FRONTLINE investigates whether the widespread use of antibiotics in food animals is fueling the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance in people. Also in this new one-hour program airing next week: An exclusive interview with the family of a young man who died in a nightmare bacteria outbreak at the National Institutes of Health. 

Stop and Seize

Sept. 8, 2014

The federal government and private police trainers have been encouraging officers to target cash on the nation’s highways since 9/11.  To examine the scope of asset forfeiture since the terror attacks, The Washington Post analyzed a database of hundreds of thousands of seizure records at the Justice Department, reviewed hundreds of federal court cases, obtained internal records from training firms and interviewed scores of police officers, prosecutors and motorists. The Posts found tens of thousands of cash seizures totaling more than $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime. 

Gun Wars

Aug. 17, 2014

The federal government's National Instant Criminal Background Check System fails to keep guns from the mentally ill. The White House describes the background check system, also known as NICS, as its “most important tool” to stopping gun crime. But more than a decade of data from the FBI and public health research reveals broad failings of the system, which has cost at least $650 million to maintain, a News21 investigation found.


June 30, 2014

Non-disclosure agreements at some nonprofits and defense contractors contain restrictions that prevent employees from reporting fraud, even to the government, which appears to violate the federal whistleblower law.

If Truth Be Told

May 30, 2014

The proliferation of new technologies may compromise the integrity of the newsgathering business, as web-crawling machines analyze large numbers of vast datasets and human decision-making gives way to automated algorithms that spit out “investigative” reports; at the same time, however, such technological developments offer journalists the sort of possibilities that may dramatically enhance their storytelling capabilities.

District's bus drivers rack up violations

May 25, 2014

Traffic cameras in the District have caught city school bus drivers speeding and running red lights hundreds of times in recent years, and — unlike most drivers in Washington — they haven’t had to pay the tickets, according to city records. Officials haven't had policies in place to discipline offenders, who are transporting children with disabilities throughout the city and, in some cases, as far away as Annapolis. There were 830 school bus crashes between May 2010 and May 2013, with about one in every nine leading to injuries, crash reports show. Most accidents were minor, but at least 40 children were hospitalized.  

Humanitarian Aid

May 4, 2014

The story of International Relief and Development reflects the course of America’s ambitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which started with great enthusiasm and consumed tremendous resources, only to see many hopes go awry. Nation-building projects aimed at supplanting insurgents and securing the peace that looked promising on paper in Washington proved to be difficult to execute in dangerous and unpredictable war zones.

In Baghdad and Kabul, companies such as IRD were left to manage hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer-funded programs with little meaningful oversight from USAID, according to interviews with government auditors and former IRD employees familiar with the projects.

Incubating new economic models for journalism.

Latest from iLab

Can students save journalism?

Can nonprofit organizations and universities save journalism? Are they able to publish quality news and maintain high standards while preparing the next generation? The Workshop's former scholar-in-residence from Norway spent a year studying the issue. See her initial findings about what's working as she heads to the Global Investigative Journalism Conference this week in Lillehammer. 

Fighting in-house censorship

One of the occupational hazards for investigative reporters everywhere is internal censorship. So what can you do, as an individual journalist, if it appears that the great, exciting, investigative story you’ve been quietly exploring and finally have pitched is getting yawns or worse, pushback from your editor?


Most Recent Posts

GIJC begins

More than 1,000 journalists from 120 countries are expected to attend the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Lillehammer, Norway, from Oct. 7-11, including the Workshop's Chuck Lewis and David Donald, who will moderate panels and teach.

Donald to train journalists at GIJC

Data Editor David Donald will do a series of trainings at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference next month in Norway. The idea is to take data journalists already comfortable in basic data analysis and advance their skills — and hence — insight into their data through the use of inferential statistics. 

Lewis begins fellowship in October

Executive Editor Charles Lewis will be a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism from October through early December, researching the possibility of a new multidisciplinary academic field he calls "Accountability Studies,"and more broadly, the "efficacy and potential of increased journalistic and academic data, research and reporting collaboration, in the context of credible, accountability information."

BankTracker updates

We’ve just updated the BankTracker database to include the second quarter, June 30 releases from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the National Credit Union Administration. Many of the presidential candidates in the 2016 campaign are basing their tax proposals and other program goals on a rosy picture of future economic growth. Yet it was only seven years ago that Lehmann Brothers collapsed, threatening the U.S. banking system and economic collapse. If the candidates mention the banks and credit unions at all, they mostly express disdain for the TARP bailouts and other government favors going to the banks during the Great Recession.

Film festival highlights in-depth work

The Investigative Film Festival at the National Portrait Gallery and the Newseum, from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, will feature seven screenings and a two-symposium. The Workshop's executive editor, Chuck Lewis, will moderate the final panel discussion about the documentary film, "1971," based on the book "The Burglary," with journalist Betty Medsger. The panel also will include Edward Snowden via Skype.


Workshop Partners

We publish online and in print, often teaming up with other news organizations. We're working now on a new program with FRONTLINE producers, to air later in the year, and on the "Years of Living Dangerously," a series on climate change that has begun airing on Showtime. A story last year on the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers was co-published with The New York Times. Our updates to our long-running BankTracker project, in which you can view the financial health of every bank and credit union in the country, have been published with msnbc.com, now nbcnews.com, and we co-published stories in our What Went Wrong series on the economy with The Philadelphia Inquirer and New America Media. Our graduate students are working as researchers with Washington Post reporters, and our new senior editor is a member of the Post's investigative team. Learn more on our partners page.


Investigating Power update

Investigating Power update

Profiles of notable journalists and their stories of key moments in U.S. history in the last 50 years can be found on the Investigating Power site. See Workshop Executive Editor Charles Lewis' latest video interviews as well as historic footage and timelines. You can also read more about the project and why we documented these groundbreaking examples of original, investigative journalism that helped shape or change public perceptions on key issues of our time, from civil rights to Iraq, here.