The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Supporting investigative reporting projects around the world

  • Next Deadline: Sept. 23, 2019

  • 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

    Rats, roaches, bedbugs lead to Golden Mike Award

    February 15th, 2019

    Rina Palta, an FIJ grant recipient and correspondent on the investigative team at KPCC radio, has won a Golden Mike Award for Best Investigative Reporting from the Radio and TV News Association of Southern California.

    Her story, Rats, roaches, bedbugs, mold: Why thousands of LA’s homeless shelter beds sit empty each night, led the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to pass a new ordinance creating uniform standards for homeless shelters in the county.

    Palta’s initial FIJ-funded story revealed a patchwork oversight system that allowed safety and sanitation problems in homeless shelters – shelters usually run by non-profit and faith groups, but partially funded by the county.  While there are around 43,000 homeless people in L.A., only 16,000 shelter beds are available. Even so, shelters funded by the county’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority had only a 78-percent utilization rate, well below the 90 percent required by their contracts. Homeless people interviewed by Palta said that the sanitation and safety issues were main reasons they refused to stay in the shelters.

    Craig Aslin, originally from Virginia, stays in a tent in Hollywood, California. Photo by Susanica Tam for KPCC

    47,000 convictions dismissed so far in Massachusetts drug lab scandal

    February 15th, 2019

    Over the last two years, the state of Massachusetts has dismissed 47,000 drug convictions and guilty pleas due to two tampering scandals involving drug lab chemists. Many more convictions are likely to be dismissed, with the total expected to exceed 50,000.

    While the first scandal received more attention, mainly due to it being first and taking place in Boston, the second, centering on chemist Sonja Farak, may be worse, says FIJ grant recipient Shawn Musgrave. In a story for Reason, he writes that Farak’s crimes were compounded by prosecutorial misconduct that the state’s top court called “the deceptive withholding of exculpatory evidence by members of the Attorney General’s office.”

    Because of the combined tampering and prosecutor misconduct, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissed thousands of cases Farak may never have even touched, including every conviction based on evidence processed at her lab from 2009 to the day of her arrest in 2013.

    Musgrave’s story reconstructs both scandals, and questions why a handful of prosecutors presided over one of the worst criminal justice failures in recent Massachusetts memory.

    Photo illustration by Reason.

    More funding, and a challenge grant

    February 5th, 2019

    FIJ is pleased to announce that the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, a long-standing supporter, has awarded $75,000 to support its grant-making program for domestic investigations in 2019. This amount includes $25,000 to be awarded if FIJ raises an additional $25,000 in new funding before December 31.

    Help us reach that matching goal – because, as always, all of it helps to fund even more watchdog journalism. 

    FIJ names latest diversity fellows for collaborations with The Marshall Project, Reveal

    January 30th, 2019

    The Fund for Investigative Journalism is proud to support the work of its two newest diversity fellows, María Martin and Angelika Albaladejo, as part of a yearlong collaboration between FIJ and two of the country’s leading nonprofit newsrooms.

    Albaladejo will be working with The Marshall Project, while Martin will partner with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Each fellowship comes with a $15,000 grant, which Martin and Albaladejo can use for reporting expenses and other costs.

    This is the third year that FIJ is offering diversity fellowships. Martin and Albaladejo join 11 other journalists who have taken part in the program, which is designed to boost diversity and inclusion within the ranks of investigative journalism – as well as increase opportunities for reporting on communities that don’t always get the attention they deserve. Read the rest of this entry »

    Of FEMA, maps and Maine

    January 29th, 2019

    In the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency contracted private firms to redraw coastal floodplain maps across the United States. In Maine, those new maps dramatically increased the number of homes and businesses at risk of catastrophic flooding, and exposed many towns to new insurance fees, lost commercial zoning, lowered property values, and lost tax revenue.

    But the new maps weren’t necessarily accurate, and only towns with deep pockets could afford to contest them. “These are truly a disaster,” said Kathleen Billings, the town manager of Stonington, Maine, one of the few towns in the state with a working waterfront.

    In a story for Pacific Standard, grant recipient Annie Avilés followed how Stonington fought to re-draw their flood maps over the past few years with the help of a local environmental systems consultant, who has regularly proven the FEMA maps wrong. She also shows how other towns never even realized they had the option.

    Photo of Stonington, Maine, by Bob O’Connor for Pacific Standard

    Trump, “small” businesses drive road through Alaskan refuge

    January 9th, 2019

    A year ago, the Trump administration approved a land swap allowing a road to be built through a remote national refuge in Alaska. The road was supposed to be a route for evacuating sick people from a small Aleut town. But an investigation revealed a little-known loophole in the agreement that allows for transport of millions of dollars of seafood.

    Grant recipient Jane Kay and photographer Ash Adams explore the impact of the road on wildlife and the people of King Cove in an article for Reveal.

    At the personal urging of President Trump, the Interior Department ignored two federal reports saying the road would harm irreplaceable, extraordinary wilderness and that patients could be transported via water instead. Interviews and documents obtained by Kay show that the intent of local leaders was to link its harbors to ship fresh fish. The agreement allows the road to be used by small businesses, which can sell tens of millions of dollars in seafood yet still qualify as “small.” Local leaders pushing for the road all own commercial fishing boats.

    Frosty Peak, more than a mile high, looms over Izembek Lagoon in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ash Adams for Reveal

    Reporter dodges restrictions to interview former Syrian Kurdish fighters

    January 9th, 2019

    In a story for The Intercept, Roy Gutman interviewed four Syrian deserters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who recounted recruitment at gunpoint, recruitment of child soldiers, jail terms for relationships with women, sending conscripts to the front lines, and conscripting family members to replace deserters. The PKK – an ally in the U.S. fight against ISIS in Syria – restricts media access, so Gutman interviewed the four in northern Iraq.

    The four also spoke of the PKK as a movement – one that is listed as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and E.U. They say its decades-long armed struggle for an independent state has not improved the lot of Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Reinforcing that thought is an interview with Osman Öcalan, the brother of the jailed leader of the PKK, and a founding member who also deserted the group, 15 years ago.

    PKK-led Syrian Democratic Forces forced this family to flee Jarablus in in advance of the American bombing in Raqqa, Syria. Photo by Roy Gutman

    New donations help fund FIJ’s mission

    December 13th, 2018

    The past two weeks have brought in three substantial funding grants for 2019.

    The Weissman Family Foundation donated $75,000 to again support FIJ reporting grants in the coming year.

    In addition, The Nara Fund donated $21,000. Of that, $6,000 is earmarked for continuing diversity outreach. Jonathan Ingbar, president of the Fund wrote, “All of us at The Nara Fund are inspired by the work that you do and we are honored to help support it, especially so at this time.”

    That money had the added benefit of fulfilling a $25,000 matching challenge grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

    And The Reva and David Logan Foundation – a long-time supporter – made a grant of $50,000 to fund even more reporting.

    The FIJ board and reporting grant recipients are deeply grateful, and hope that the generosity will continue flowing through the holiday season.

    FIJ Board changes

    December 11th, 2018

    FIJ is happy to announce two new board members, Alan Berlow and Anu Narayanswamy.

    Alan Berlow is a freelance reporter, a former foreign correspondent for NPR, and author of Dead Season, A Story of Murder and Revenge. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic and Harpers. Berlow has himself received two FIJ grants, in 1977 and 1991. He is a board member of the Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation.

    Anu Narayanswamy is a data reporter for The Washington Post, working on the political enterprise team with a focus on money in politics and government accountability. She has previous investigative reporting experience both at the Center for Public Integrity and the Sunlight Foundation. Originally from Mumbai, India, she has a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri – Columbia and is a member of the IRE/NICAR.

    At the same time, Doris Truong will be leaving the board after a three-year term. FIJ wishes her the best of luck as she continues as the director of training and diversity at the Poynter Institute.

    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.]