Charles Lewis

Charles Lewis

Executive Editor
Phone: (202) 885-1997

A bestselling author and national investigative journalist for over 30 years, Charles Lewis is a tenured professor of journalism and since 2008 the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. He is the founder of The Center for Public Integrity and several other nonprofit organizations, and the author in 2014 of 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity. 

He left a successful career as an investigative producer for ABC News and the CBS News program 60 Minutes and began the Center from his home, growing it to a full-time staff of 40 people. Under his leadership, the nonpartisan Center published roughly 300 investigative reports, including 14 books, from 1989 through 2004, and these major reporting projects were honored more than 30 times by national journalism organizations. His fifth and last co-authored book with the Center staff, The Buying of the President 2004 (HarperCollins/Perennial) was a New York Times bestseller.

In 1996, the New Yorker called The Center for Public Integrity “the center for campaign scoops.” For example, that year Lewis and the Center issued a report, Fat Cat Hotel, which first revealed that the Clinton administration had been rewarding major donors with White House overnight stays in the “Lincoln Bedroom.” In 2003, weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Center posted secret draft “Patriot II” legislation, and in October the Center posted all of the known U.S. war contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Windfalls of War first identified that Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root had received the most money from those contracts, and it won the first George Polk Award for Internet Reporting.  

Since 1992, Lewis has traveled and spoken publicly in 26 countries on six continents. In late 1997, he began the Center’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the world’s first working network of now 185 premier reporters in more than 65 countries producing content across borders. And that made the “first global website devoted to international exposés.”

In 2005, Lewis co-founded Global Integrity, an independent, nonprofit organization utilizing journalists and social scientists to track governance and corruption trends around the world. And from 2005 through 2008, he served as founding president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism in Washington, an endowment and legal defense support organization for the Center for Public Integrity. During that time, he also was a consultant on access to information issues to the Carter Center in Atlanta, a Ferris Professor at Princeton University and a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University. 

Lewis, once described as “a watchdog in the corridors of power” by the National Journal, was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1998. And in 2004, PEN USA, the respected literary organization, gave its First Amendment award to Lewis, “for expanding the reach of investigative journalism, for his courage in going after a story regardless of whose toes he steps on, and for boldly exercising his freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” In 2009, the Encyclopedia of Journalism cited Lewis as “one of the 30 most notable investigative reporters in the U.S. since World War I.”

Read more of Charles Lewis' earlier work.

Stories written by Charles Lewis

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, now, 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.