The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Supporting investigative reporting projects around the world

  • Next Deadline: Feb. 4, 2019 (11:59 pm Eastern)

  • Newsroom

    No easy options when leaving Salvadoran gangs

    December 4th, 2018

    In two stories for The Intercept, FIJ/Schuster Institute diversity fellow Danielle Mackey reports on the difficulty and politics of leaving criminal gangs in El Salvador.

    The first piece follows a 21-year-old who wants to retire after 10 years of murder and extortion with the gang Barrio 18. He hopes for a new life working with an evangelical Christian church. To his surprise, the gang lets him go, with conditions.

    Besides entanglements with their old gangs, former gang members are ostracized by society and are targeted by police and other gangs. There are about 60,000 gang members in El Salvador. Mackey asks, “What is the solution to this problem if they can’t retire?” This story was highlighted in the New York Times and Longreads.

    The second piece reports on a historic change in U.S. foreign policy toward El Salvador that allows aid money to be used to help people leave gangs. The unannounced policy shift happened after a years-long political battle fought in both Washington and the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador.

    A view of prisoners inside Apanteos prison, west of San Salvador, El Salvador. Photo by Salvador Meléndez/Revista Factum

    [FIJ thanks The Ford Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

    Grant recipient investigates government contract “piggybacking”

    December 3rd, 2018

    Over five months, PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, investigated the use of “piggybacking” contracts used by city and county governments in the region. The practice allows some government officials to circumvent contract vetting processes by “piggybacking” on contract requests already approved by other agencies. Doing so can save governments time and money by avoiding negotiation and approval steps. But critics say the practice has led to higher costs for taxpayers and leaves government agencies vulnerable to fraud.

    According to data compiled by PublicSource from Pittsburg’s contract repository, only 10 percent of 1,135 contracts that were active as of December, 1, 2018, were actually negotiated by the city.

    City Controller Michael Lamb told PublicSource, “When you just automatically jump to these cooperative contracts rather than doing a local competitive process, I think you’re cheating taxpayers.”

    View of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh. Photo by Kat Procyk

    [FIJ thanks the Park Foundation and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

     

    FIJ Awards Eight Grants in Latest Round

    November 26th, 2018

    The Board of Directors of the Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) has awarded $67,810 for eight grants to nine investigative journalists in its most recent round of funding.

    The grants will help investigative reporters cover the costs of reporting work, such as travel, document fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

    The grant recipients are:

    Sylvia Varnham O’Regan & Maddy Crowell, New York-based journalists

    Naveena Sadasivam, a journalist based in Austin, Texas

    David Armstrong, of the Georgia News Lab in Kennesaw, Georgia

    Burt Glass, a journalist from Boston

    Kira Zalan, a freelance reporter from Washington, D.C.

    Marc Perrusquia, a journalist based in Bartlett, Tennessee

    Victoria Mckenzie, an investigative journalist based in New York City

    Suman Naishadham, an independent journalist currently studying at the Missouri School of Journalism

    The deadline to apply for the next round of grants is February 4, 2019.

    The Fund for Investigative Journalism is an independent, non-profit organization that has supported public service reporting projects since 1969, when it provided funding for Seymour Hersh to investigate the massacre of civilians in My Lai during the Vietnam War. Since then, FIJ has supported the work of hundreds of reporters who have uncovered and published important investigative stories from across the United States and around the world.

     

    Report uncovers prison sex abuse, “rubber stamp” audits

    November 26th, 2018

    Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003 to “prevent, detect, and respond to” sexual abuse in American prisons. Yet at least 11 lawsuits alleging criminal sexual abuse of inmates have been filed against former employees of New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women since 2015.

    So, when PREA auditors examined the prison in 2014 and 2016, how did it pass?

    This question is at the center of FIJ grant recipient Lauren Lee White’s story, “#MeToo Behind Bars: How Federal Investigators Are Ignoring Prison Sexual Assaults They Are Hired To Report,” the first in a series for WitnessLA.

    Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, calls one of the Edna Mahan audits a “rubber stamp.” It includes nearly verbatim passages found in at least 12 other audits of other facilities conducted between 2015 and 2018. Wright’s story explores this apparent failure of the PREA auditing system and shows how that affects incarcerated women across the country.

    View of the entrance to the L.A. County women’s jail. Photo by Lauren Lee White

    [FIJ thanks the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation for providing the funding for this project]

    Giving Thanks

    November 21st, 2018

    With gratitude for their moral and financial support, the board and staff of the Fund for Investigative Journalism would like to acknowledge the many individuals and organizations that have sustained the work of independent investigative reporters throughout the year.

    Major Supporters:

    The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation

    The Reva and David Logan Foundation

    The Weissman Family Foundation

    The Ford Foundation

    The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation

    craigslist Charitable Fund

    The Park Foundation

    The Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation

    The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation

    The Nara Fund

    The Tides Foundation

    The Scripps Howard Foundation

    The Ardea Fund

    The Davis Family Charitable Fund

    Connie Rydberg and Nirav Kapadia

    Shari and Charles Pfleeger

    Sally Collier and Bob Caiola

    Irene Schmidt

    Mentors:

    Moriah Balingit

    David Biello

    Ryan Gabrielson

    Lottie Joiner

    Linda Jue

    Liz Lucas

    Robert McClure

    Craig McCoy

    Steven Rich

    Ricardo Sandoval Palos

    John Shiffman

    Cheryl W. Thompson

    Scott Zamost

    Melissa del Bosque

    Partners:

    Catalogue for Philanthropy – Greater Washington

    Investigative Reporters and Editors

    Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting

    Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University

    Society of Environmental Journalists

    The Marshall Project

    The Ida B. Wells Society

    Advisors:

    Eric Fingerhut, Pro Bono Attorney, Dykema

    Amy Christen, Pro Bono Attorney, Dykema

    Corey Wheaton, Pro Bono Attorney, Dykema

    Christopher Wilkinson, Pro Bono Attorney, Orrick

    Leigh Riddick, Pro Bono Financial Advisor, Kogod School of Business, American University

    Lisa Button

    Bobby Caina Calvan

    Bridget Gallagher

    Jamie Gold

    Jerry Redfern

    Beverly Orr

    Thanks to all!

    New book explores international corporate bribery, consequences

    November 16th, 2018

    Kickback, a new book by FIJ grant recipient David Montero, traces the ways that international corporate bribery foments poverty, violence, and environmental disaster around the world.

    The book notes a litany of foreign and domestic companies accused of bribery and kickbacks, both historically and today, from the British East India Company to the international conglomerate Siemens.

    One chapter explains how a history of ingrained bribery in Greece contributed to that country’s economic collapse. And an FIJ grant helped Montero complete reporting on a chapter documenting international pharmaceutical firms’ payoffs to gain market share in China.

    But a main point is that “corruption rarely stays ‘out there,’” Montero says.

    “Bribes eventually harm Americans, American society, American values, and American interests, both domestically and around the world, in ways that are difficult to gauge.”

    [FIJ thanks The Reva and David Logan Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

    Story highlights “crusade” against domestic violence in the black community

    October 25th, 2018

    Five black women were killed in Mobile, Alabama, in 2016, six in 2017 and five by April this year. That is 16 women dead, mostly at the hands of black men, over three years in this small Southern city.

    In a story for NBC News—and her latest piece on domestic violence in the black community—FIJ and Schuster Institute Fellow Chandra Thomas Whitfield tells of police sergeant John C. Young, who, in April, asked the Mobile City Council to address the issue of black women being killed by intimate partner violence.

    Young received a tepid response.

    A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study notes that black women are 35 percent more likely to be victims of domestic violence than white women. In the story, L.A. author Sa’iyda Shabazz says silence about the issue for many in the black community stems from worries of contributing to the racist stereotype that black men are more violent than men of other races.

    Meanwhile, Young says he will continue his one-man crusade despite the city council’s lack of response.

    John C. Young protests in front of the Mobile Government Plaza. Photo by Tim Jones

    [FIJ thanks The Ford Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

    Racism, the mob and the FBI converge in a Chicago dump for new podcast

    October 25th, 2018

    The Citya new investigative podcast from USA TODAY, tells the story of an undercover FBI investigation that failed to bring justice to a black Chicago neighborhood that had been the victim of illegal dumping perpetrated by the mob. 

    The City was created by investigative reporter Robin Amer, who received bridge funding for the show from FIJ. 

    The story begins in Chicago in 1990. Highways are rebuilt, old buildings demolished, new parks and skyscrapers erected. But all that rubble has to go somewhere: a pair of vacant lots in a black, working-class neighborhood called North Lawndale.

    At the helm of this operation is a guy sporting a Cosby sweater, manicured nails, and underworld connections: John Christopher. For more than a decade, what Christopher does on this lot is a tour through the underbelly of Chicago: aldermen get indicted; an FBI investigation goes awry; a neighborhood gets polluted with impunity. And a community’s resilience is tested—all under the specter of racism in America.

    A City of Chicago car drives past the illegal dump site at the center of the investigation. Photo by Brian Jackson

    [FIJ thanks The Park Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

    FIJ funded earlier story about owner of N.Y. limousine company behind crash

    October 16th, 2018

    In 2011, FIJ helped fund investigative reporter Trevor Aaronson’s research into the FBI’s program of recruiting informants to break terrorist plots within the U.S. That reporting became the Mother Jones magazine story “The Informants,” which Aaronson wrote while a fellow at the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Part of that Mother Jones story followed the FBI’s involvement with counterterrorism informant Shahed Hussain – the owner of the company whose limousine crashed in upstate New York on October 6, killing 20. Ironically, Hussain’s relationship with the FBI began when he was caught running a scam at the New York DMV.

    Aaronson, now the Executive Director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and a contributor to The Intercept, says, “I think there’s a valid question here about whether this horrible accident would have happened had the FBI not protected this guy from deportation and prosecution for more than a decade.”

    Investigation raises questions about police tactics in D.C. gun cases

    September 26th, 2018

    A months-long investigation by WAMU reporter Patrick Madden and a team of graduate students from the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University found evidence that many gun possession cases – nearly 4 in 10 – were dismissed in court, raising questions about police tactics in gun searches.

    The investigation “Collateral Damage” focused on the impact of the Washington police department’s aggressive focus on confiscating illegal guns. The series – produced for radio, video and web – explored how tactics used by police to search for guns are also angering and alienating residents, especially in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods where police focus these efforts.

    Illustration by Ruth Tam / WAMU

    [FIJ thanks The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]