The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Supporting investigative reporting projects around the world

  • Next Deadline: Sept. 24, 2018 (11:59 pm Eastern)

  • How FIJ Helped to Uncover the My Lai Massacre

    Seymour HershClick here to hear veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh tell how – with financial support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism – he learned about the massacre of civilians in Vietnam, how he tracked down Lt. William Calley and, in so doing, changed the world’s perception of American intervention in Southeast Asia. It demonstrates how small grants from our fund have enabled talented journalists to produce big, important stories, changing the course of history.


     

    Announcements from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and work from FIJ grant recipients

    Investigation highlights need for better monitoring of pollutants dumped into New York City waterways

    January 26th, 2018

    New York City is threaded with heavily polluted waterways, like the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek and the Bronx River, where sewage and chemicals sometimes make the water dangerous to even touch. An investigation by City Limits shines light on an undercovered element of the city’s ongoing violation of the Clean Water Act: raw sewage from homes and apartments pumped through illegal pipes into waterways, and industrial chemicals dumped down storm drains or leaked onto waterfront land. Individual incidents can involve hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage a day, but no one knows the full extent of the problem. Dozens of times each year, monitoring devices pick up high fecal bacteria counts, but the city often cannot find their origin. City Limits’ report highlights the need for more intense monitoring and broader public awareness if swimmable, fishable water is ever going to be reality in the five boroughs.

    WNYC recently featured the investigation by City Limits.

    In photo by Adi Talwar for City Limits, city investigators have found more than a dozen buildings encompassing nearly 1,000 homes whose sewage was running into Coney Island Creek via an illicit connection.

    [Funding for this project was provided by the Park Foundation.]

    As Hilcorp plans to drill in Arctic waters, a troubling trail of violations surfaces

    January 24th, 2018

    InsideClimate News delved into the regulatory record of the energy company Hilcorp, a Houston-based firm that has kept a low profile despite being one of the country’s largest privately held oil and gas producers. As Hilcorp makes plans to drill in the Arctic, InsideClimate reviewed thousands of pages of government documents and conducted interviews with industry experts and watchdogs. The investigation by InsideClimate portrays a company that critics say prioritizes an aggressive expansion in Alaska while repeatedly falling short on safety and environmental protection. A version of the story was also published in the Dallas Morning News.

    [Funding for this project was provided by the Park Foundation.]

    Months after Hurricane Harvey, confusion remains in recovery efforts

    January 24th, 2018

    Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the Texas Coast in the waning days of August, dumping more than 50 inches of rain in parts of the Houston area. The storm flooded thousands of homes and killed more than 80 people. The devastation was swift, and the recovery is far from over. The Texas Tribune, in collaboration with Reveal and ProPublica, investigated recovery efforts and found deep problems caused by repeated flooding in overbuilt areas of Houston and a tangle of conflicting priorities when it comes to aiding private developers and individual homeowners. Months after Harvey, some displaced families remain in limbo. The lack of data, including the true extent of personal financial ruin, could deepen the woes of many homeowners who could fall through the cracks because of daunting layers of government bureaucracy. The multi-part series also documented the dilemma of competing priorities between public flood control projects and private loss.

    In photo by Eddie Seal for the Texas Tribune: A destroyed motel in Rockport on August 28, 2017. The motel was heavily damaged as Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph in Rockport on Friday, August 25, 2017.

    [Funding for this project was provided by the Park Foundation.]

    Cost of securing beds for foster care children rises sharply in Washington state

    January 18th, 2018

    In its continuing coverage of the Washington state’s foster care system, InvestigateWest, in partnership with the news site Crosscut.com, reports that state officials have nearly doubled the amount it pays to secure beds for children, from $325 per night to $600. Recently obtained payment records and confidential but incomplete data obtained by InvestigateWest shows how some host families are making a small fortune as the state grapples with finding solutions for what one state official called “child mills.”  What’s more, the state sometimes spends more than $2,000 per night to provide children shelter at hotels. The ongoing work by InvestigateWest and Crosscut prompted a forum that drew hundreds of people and garnered attention by lawmakers, who have enacted new laws to address shortcomings in the state’s foster care system.

    In photo by Kathryn Sauber for InvestigateWest, foster kids and their advocates rally in Olympia last spring.

    [Funding for this project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]

    Reflecting on the year just past, while ushering changes in the New Year

    January 18th, 2018

    As the new year gets into full gear, It’s a good time to look back at the work FIJ grantees have produced. Last year, grant recipients have published about three dozen projects.

    In December, we feature a trove of stories – including a deep dive into the background of a Kentucky legislator, further risks of corruption in Colombia and stories about the criminal justice system from two of our FIJ/Schuster Institute diversity fellows.

    FIJ’s ability to sponsor this kind of reporting depends on the financial support we receive from donors.

    FIJ is fortunate to get additional backing from longtime supporters like the Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation, which recently awarded FIJ $35,000 for each of the next two years.

    In addition, The Nara Fund has given FIJ another $15,000. In its award letter, the fund said it was inspired by FIJ’s work, and it was “honored to help support it, especially so at this time.”

    Hard-hitting, fact-based journalism is needed more than ever, and FIJ is determined to help freelance and independent journalists continue to deliver quality watchdog journalism in the New Year.

    The New Year also brings new leadership to FIJ’s governing board. Marcia Bullard, a past president and chief executive officer of the national magazine USA WEEKEND, will take the helm of the board when current president Ricardo Sandoval-Palos steps down.

    “This is a critical time for America to support independent and investigative journalism,” Bullard said. “It’s energizing that so many people are donating to FIJ so we can continue this work. I expect 2018 will bring many important stories to light.” Read the rest of this entry »

    Controversy over state-hired psychiatrist expands into federal disability claims

    December 22nd, 2017

    Further investigation by WNIN and Side Effects Public Media calls into question the work of a government-hired psychologist on thousands of Social Security Administration disability claims. The news outlets had previously reported about concerns that the psychologist might have falsified at least two dozen mental competency exams related to criminal court cases.. The scrutiny arose after he was convicted of falsifying one such exam. The widening scrutiny, according to WNIN, stems from his role in 10,567  disability cases for which he performed services for the Social Security Administration. The psychologist, Albert Fink, was paid more than $1.6 million between 2006 and 2016, according to public records obtained by the news outlets through public records requests.

    In photo by AJ Casey for WNIN, Psychologist Albert Fink at a court hearing in GIbson County, Indiana. The doctor was charged with obstruction of justice after admitting he had faked court-ordered mental health examinations.

    [Funding for this project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]

     

    In Louisiana, some hope for men trying to break free from cycle of incarceration.

    December 21st, 2017

    FIJ/Schuster diversity fellow Lottie Joiner completes her series on recidivism for USA Today by looking at the experiences of men incarcerated in Louisiana, which has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.  In her latest multimedia installments for her “Policing the USA” project, Joiner features former felons getting help from a program called “First 72+,” which is trying to help men break free from the cycle of crime and imprisonment. Joiner reports that the United States spent more than $56 billion in 2015 to lock people up. Studies show that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. African American men, in particular, are jailed at higher rates than other groups. As part of her project, Joiner also interviews best-selling author Shaka Senghor, who went to prison when he was 19 after being convicted of second-degree murder.

    In photo by Jarrad Henderson for USA Today: First 72+ founders, from left, Blair Boutte, Kenneth “Jack” Dilosa, Tyrone Smith and Ben Smith.

    [Funding for this project was provided by the Ford Foundation.]

    Investigation into comptrollers’ offices in Colombia reveals widespread conflicts of interests

    December 15th, 2017

    A team of 18 reporters from 11 national and local publications across Colombia launched an ambitious investigation into the work of 20 local comptroller’s offices (hipervínculo en español) and the apparent conflicts of interests in the auditing of government agencies and the public treasury. The investigation, led by Colombian NGO Consejo de Redacción and published by El Espectador, found that comptrollers’ offices sometimes employed people who are being investigated or who have close ties to governors, mayors and other officials who are supposed to be under scrutiny. What’s more, comptroller’s have signed off on contracts worth hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars that involve relatives or close associates. The investigation reveals a system that has few checks and balances to prevent abuse.

    [Funding for this story was provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation.]

    Far-reaching investigation into Kentucky state legislator exposes ‘web of lies’

    December 15th, 2017

    A seven-month investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting revealed what it called “a Kentucky preacher-turned-politician’s web of lies.” The package, written by by R.G. Dunlop and Jacob Ryan, exposed what the center said was a series of deceptions over decades by state Rep. Dan Johnson, a self-anointed “pope, bishop and minister to outcasts.”

    The FIJ-sponsored investigation partly focused on the allegations of a 21-year-old woman who said she was molested by Johnson in his church basement when she was 17. It was part of a broader examination of the institutional failures that allowed Johnson to ascend into positions of power, including election to the statehouse.

    Two days after “The Pope’s Long Con” was published on Dec. 11, 2017, Johnson killed himself, the Bullitt County coroner told the Associated Press.

    During his rise, Johnson claimed to have served as the White House chaplain to three presidents and as a United Nations ambassador. He said he performed last rites for all of the victims pulled from the fallen towers of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    In its reporting, the center conducted more than 100 interviews and inspected thousands of pages of public documents, including police reports and court files.

    KyCIR, a project of Louisville Public Media,  said Johnson declined to be interviewed despite numerous requests.

    Louisville Public Media President Michael Stoler said he was saddened by Johnson’s apparent suicide and offered condolences to his family, and stood resolute in his newsroom’s mission “to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions.”

    (In photo by Jacob Ryan, Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson at a 9/11 memorial event in Bullitt County on Sept. 10, 2017.)

    Solitary confinement of juvenile offenders persists despite efforts to end practice

    December 14th, 2017

    In a story for The New Yorker, FIJ/Schuster diversity fellow Lisa Armstrong reports on the movement to end solitary confinement for juveniles. Her piece, “A Teen-Ager in Solitary Confinement,” chronicles the plight of Jermaine Gotham, who was sixteen the first time he was locked in “the box” in an upstate New York county jail. In 2016, President Obama banned solitary confinement for children in federal prisons. Several states, including California and Massachusetts, have either ended the practice or set limits for state prisons. But in other states, juvenile solitary confinement continues. Even where reforms are underway, local jails typically determine their own rules.

    Photo of Jermaine Gotham courtesy of his mother, Angelena Morris, who is pictured with him.

    [Funding for this story and the FIJ/Schuster Institute diversity program was provided by the Ford Foundation.]