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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.

Whistleblowers

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.

Years of Living Dangerously

April 14, 2014

"Years of Living Dangerously," a new documentary series that explores how climate change is altering people's lives across the globe, has begun airing on Showtime. Each story features a Hollywood star or respected journalist as a correspondent. Workshop Senior Producer Margaret Ebrahim spent 15 months crisscrossing the country to report the impact of climate change, focusing on stories about the production of natural gas and also on renewable energy. The Workshop's site features additional stories, videos and an interactive drought graphic as well as program information.  

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

Lily pads help military expand

The Investigative Reporting Workshop showcases anthropologist and author David Vine’s book today in a new project, “The Lily Pad Strategy.” 

Vine, a professor at American University, has spent years documenting the growth and influence of the U.S. military worldwide. His latest book, "Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World" (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt 2015), shows the military’s increasing footprint across Asia and Africa. The Workshop’s Kelly Martin created more than a dozen historical maps for the new book and a new set of interactive maps for the Workshop’s website.

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.

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.