The Investigative Reporting Program, established formally in 2006, is the home of an effort launched in 1991 in seminars taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and producer Lowell Bergman. The IRP is both a graduate-level training program and a nonprofit news producer, generating stories for major broadcast, print and online outlets.
In the last decade, dozens of stories have been produced out of the IRP on subjects including the practices of the credit card industry, corruption in Mexico, the sexual harassment and rape of female farmworkers in the U.S., the California energy crisis and the role of Enron, the environmental and social impact of American gold mining in Peru, and the roots of 9/11, as well as subsequent stories on the terrorist threat inside the United States and Europe. The most successful and most honored of our projects was the 2003 investigation of worker safety in the iron foundry industry. “A Dangerous Business” which appeared as both a print series and a documentary--the only winner of the Pulitzer Prize to also be acknowledged with every major award in broadcasting.
Projects produced by the program have appeared on such national television programs as PBS' Frontline, Frontline/WORLD and the NewsHour as well as ABC's Nightline, CBS’ Evening News and 60 Minutes II. In print, stories for which students were the primary authors or contributors have appeared in the pages of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle as well as a wide variety of magazines and international and local newspapers.
Projects in which the students' roles were acknowledged and credited have received the Pulitzer Prize, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award, Gerald Loeb Award, Peabody Award, National Press Club Award, George Polk award, the Sidney Hillman Award, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award, the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism, and the Columbia Online Journalism Award.
The goal of the Investigative Reporting for Print and TV seminar taught by Lowell Bergman, who holds the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism, is to provide an appreciation and understanding of investigative reporting. The class emphasizes the history and role of investigative reporting as well as the skills and techniques needed to do it. Instruction focuses on developing sources, conducting research and interviews, using public records, the legal issues surrounding confidentiality and other issues.
Classroom guests are frequent and include private investigators; current and former FBI, Homeland Security, and CIA officials and agents; prosecutors, judges, lawyers, and others whose work is key to developing investigative stories. Students learn the legal complexities of giving depositions, and dealing with operatives whose interests often overlap with those of reporters.
In 2007, in response to cutbacks at major news organizations, the Investigative Reporting Program established the country’s first postgraduate fellowships in investigative reporting. This yearlong program is without peer at any academic institution. It is designed to enable select journalists with a proven ability to tell complex stories in the public interest to pursue stories for up to one-year, providing them with salary, benefits and editorial guidance.