Charles Lewis

Charles Lewis

Executive Editor
Phone: (202) 885-1997
charlesl@american.edu

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 www.publicintegrity.org 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

Incubating new economic models for journalism.

Latest from iLab

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?

The future of TV news

Viewers nationwide mostly get local traffic, crime, weather and sports news, while local investigative reporting about the powers that be — and straight talk, facts and figures about the serious 21st century issues we all face  — generally have become endangered species.

Blogs

Most Recent Posts

What Pluto tells us about journalism

When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft sent back its first crisp images of Pluto last week, the culmination of a 3-billion mile, 9 1/2-year journey filled with cliffhangers and near disasters, you didn't need to be a scientist to feel the exhilaration of discovering what was, until then, a dark and blurry corner of the solar system.

Given my interests within research and media, I also thought about the lessons for journalism. 

What we're reading: award-winning journalism

One way to constantly improve as a journalist is to observe and learn from the works of others. The Society of Professional Journalists' Quill Magazine announced its top journalism picks from 2014.

Read on for summaries of some award winners.

How ISIS uses social media

The Islamic State and other terrorists groups use social-media companies to recruit, and Google, Twitter and Facebook are looking at whether and how their technology may be being exploited. Where do you draw the line between free speech and national security? A new Washington Post investigation, with contributions from Workshop summer staffer Fauzeya Rahman, explores the various viewpoints.

SRCCON Highlights

SRCCON, now in its second year, wanted to feature the hallway conversations, skillshares and collaborations that happen naturally at bigger conferences and make them the highlight of the event. We attended the Minneapolis conference to find out.

Sometimes the safest digital footprint is the simplest

For journalists, much of what we do on a daily basis involves classified information. In today's digital landscape, it may require extra knowledge to keep that information secure. A recent National Press Club training shared key things journalists can do to keep themselves, and sources, safe.

Partners

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.

Projects

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.