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Assault on Justice

May 9, 2015

People can be arrested, charged and convicted for assaulting a police officer in the District of Columbia even when no physical violence occurs. We analyzed almost 2,000 court cases from 2012-2014 and found about 90 percent of those charged with assaulting a police officer were black and nearly two-thirds of people arrested for assaulting an officer weren’t charged with any other crimes. Some defense attorneys see troubling indicators in these numbers, alleging that the law is being used as a tactic to cover up police abuse and civil-rights violations.

Shaken Science

March 21, 2015

In a year-long study, The Washington Post used court records and news media accounts to track the dispositions of about 1,800 cases nationwide since 2001 that reportedly involved shaking, finding some of the heaviest concentrations in counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nebraska. The study for the first time identified about 200 cases in 47 states that ended when charges were dropped or dismissed, defendants were found not guilty or convictions were overturned.

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.

Recent News

Racial politics flavor debate over banning menthol cigarettes

Lorillard Tobacco donated nearly four times as much to Republican candidates as to Democrats in the 2014 congressional elections. No surprise there — most businesses count on Republicans to hold the line on regulations and taxes.

But Lorillard made a striking exception for one set of Democrats: African Americans. It gave campaign cash to half of all black members of Congress, as opposed to just one in 38 non-black Democrats, according to an analysis by FairWarning of records from the Center for Responsive Politics. To put it another way, black lawmakers, all but one of whom are Democrats, were 19 times as likely as their Democratic peers to get a donation.

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

How the media can support whistleblowers

Can whistleblowers safely express concerns about their agency within internal channels? Do a whistleblower’s motives matter? Edward Snowden, New York Times reporter James Risen and whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack talked about their experiences at a Newseum event Tuesday.

Researchers collect data to reform policing

How powerful are crowdsourcing, surveys and data collection? One mom calling for police reform in her South Bronx neighborhood told the White House how "public science" is changing lives.

Combating seafood fraud

One of the things we do at the Investigative Reporting Workshop is explore how different academic disciplines can enrich and inform investigative journalism. A talk this week on seafood fraud sponsored by AU’s interdisciplinary ECOllaborative provides a case in point. Kimberly A. Warner, senior scientist for the ocean conservation group Oceana, described her organization’s efforts to combat widespread global seafood fraud.

'120 Days' shows heartbreaking reality of immigration

Director Ted Roach's "120 Days" introduces viewers to the plight of the Cortes family in North Carolina, where immigration laws and procedures challenged a family's standing in the community. The award-winning documentary will be screened on Thursday at American University's Washington College of Law as part of the Human Rights Film Series.

How to use social media to combat hate

Can social media be used to combat hate speech — or does it foster it? That was the question this weekend during one of the workshops at The Parliament of the World’s Religions, an international, interfaith gathering.


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.