Workshop Investigations

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.  

Bank Tracker: 2013 profits hit new level

March 7, 2014

The nation’s banks have recovered strongly from the financial crisis, and the results for 2013 provide even more evidence: Profits for the year hit $154.7 billion, according to reports filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That's the highest level ever. And only 24 banks failed last year, the fewest since 2007.

Revolving doors

Dec. 11, 2013

In the “reverse revolving door,” key players outside of government, often in heavily regulated industries, leave their high-paying corporate lobbying jobs for the public sector, where they take staff jobs on Senate and House committees. But can someone shift his or her outlook from protecting business interests to protecting the nation’s interest? 

Bank Tracker

Dec. 10, 2013

Solid loan growth and continued low interest rates have helped the nation’s 6,600 credit unions rebuild from the 2008-09 financial crisis, according to new data from the National Credit Union Administration.

But there might be storm clouds on the horizon. NCUA Chair Debbie Matz warned recently that the prospect of higher interest rates could cut into credit union profits. 


Economic impact ripples

Dec. 4, 2013

Lawyers often see the criminal and civil courts as two separate entities, but for people caught up in the legal system, the problems often bleed from one arena into the other. Having a bad lawyer, or an overwhelmed one, can result in a felony conviction rather than a misdemeanor, or a plea deal rather than a trial. Those missed opportunities can have economic and social ripple effects that last beyond any prison sentence.


Bank Tracker: Five-Year Review

Oct. 29, 2013

By most accounts TARP achieved its primary purpose: To help bring about stability in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. But the program has been called is "one of the most hated, misunderstood and effective policies in modern economic history."

Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria

Oct. 21, 2013

"Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria," a FRONTLINE program co-produced with the Investigative Reporting Workshop, looks at whether the age of antibiotics is coming to an end. From a young girl thrust onto life support in Arizona to an uncontrollable outbreak at one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, FRONTLINE investigates the alarming rise of a deadly type of bacteria that our modern antibiotics can’t stop. You can watch the full video, learn more about the global spread of superbugs and read about the making of the film. 

What Went Wrong: The Betrayal of the American Dream

Oct. 17, 2013

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele's 2012 book, "The Betrayal of the American Dream," chronicles how four decades of public policy shaped America's ongoing economic crisis. The New York Times bestseller, researched in part by Workshop staffers, will be released in paperback Oct. 22. The paperback edition includes the authors' new afterword, which takes a critical look at economic recovery in the United States and its impact on the middle class.

BankTracker: Smaller banks rebound more slowly

Sept. 13, 2013

The latest data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows that the nation’s banks continue to recover from the financial crisis, reporting stronger earnings and increasing loan volume.

But an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop shows that for the vast majority of banks — those with less than $1 billion in assets — profits are harder to come by as they continue to try to work their way through a disproportionate amount of troubled loans and foreclosed property.

Obama's Drones

Aug. 2, 2013

Within the world of money and politics, Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon stands out. Not only is he the top recipient of contributions from manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles, but he is also Capitol Hill’s most vocal supporter of the industry and has close ties with lobbyists and contractors. And if McKeon has his way, drones will soon populate the skies over this country.

Courts redefining crime and punishment

July 30, 2013

There is growing recognition that the current system of impossible caseloads, over-criminalized rule books and overflowing prisons is incredibly expensive, unsustainable — and avoidable. Legislatures and advocates are exploring how to shift some acts from criminal offenses to ticket-able ones. Organizers are teaming up with public defenders, bringing people power where money is short. And lawyers are trying to address the issues that led people into the justice system in the first place.

Nanotechnology: Harmful or Benign?

July 24, 2013

Although questions abound about the impact of nanoparticles on the environment and the human body, such particles have ushered in breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and electronics, fueling a huge industry. Nanomaterials are now either produced or used by many of the nation’s largest businesses in toys, textiles, sunscreens, computer screens and tennis rackets. The industries say don't regulate us, but the EPA continues to study the issue.

The Koch Club

July 1, 2013

Koch foundations gave more than $41 million to 89 nonprofits from 2007-2011, part of a wide effort at funding organizations with public policy, education and political interests that align with those of Koch Industries, run by Charles and David Koch. The Investigative Reporting Workshop examined Internal Revenue Service documents for a closer look at Koch giving, which also includes millions to the arts, medicine and colleges across the country, as well as continued support of a "No Climate Tax Pledge."

The Hole

March 24, 2013

On any given day, there are about 300 immigrants in solitary confinement in some of the most populous detention centers overseen by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Conditions vary, but according to interviews with detainees and lawyers, segregated detainees are routinely kept alone for 22 to 23 hours a day in windowless, 6-by-13 cells. These immigrants are civil, not criminal, detainees, but new data obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Investigative Reporting Workshop show how punitive immigration enforcement has become. Trauma experts say the psychological impact may be more acute for detainees as many of them are victims of human trafficking or domestic violence or have survived persecution in their countries of origin.

 

BankTracker: Reshaped banking industry emerges from crisis

March 18, 2013

The banking industry has emerged shaken but in some senses thriving. Last year was the second most profitable ever for the nation’s banks, according to reports filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but it is unmistakably true that the industry is fundamentally different today than it was five years ago.

Momentive

Dec. 26, 2012

Workers at Momentive Performance Materials have what thousands of unemployed Americans want most: jobs that pay a decent wage. And not just any jobs, union jobs, in manufacturing. But in the years since a private equity firm took over the chemical company, workers have seen contract fights, safety problems and slashed wages. This is the new face of stability in the American workplace. 

 

Toxic Influence

Dec. 21, 2012

A landmark Environmental Protection Agency report concluding that children exposed to toxic substances can develop learning disabilities, asthma and other health problems has been sidetracked indefinitely amid fierce opposition from the chemical industry. Public health officials view it as a source of one-stop shopping for the best information on what children and women of childbearing age are exposed to, how much of it remains in their bodies and what the health effects might be. 

BankTracker: More money, fewer banks

Dec. 20, 2012

The nation’s banks turned in another strong performance in the third quarter, continuing the steady recovery from the financial crisis that gripped the nation four years ago, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Big Sky, Big Money

Oct. 29, 2012

"Big Sky, Big Money," which airs Oct. 30 on PBS FRONTLINE, chronicles how boxes of records turned over to Montana authorities show that a top person from Western Tradition Partnership interacted with candidates and helped shape their election efforts, possibly violating laws that bar coordination between campaigns and outside groups. The documentary and a series of stories on campaign finance examine how things have changed in Montana — and across the country — since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United two years ago.

The Digital Campaign

Oct. 26, 2012

If candidates can make political messages feel like personal conversations, then they may win more votes. So they are turning more and more to Big Data to find out about individual voters before they go knocking on doors. Here's a look at how both Republicans and the Democrats are analyzing voters — and then tailoring their pitches.

Cliffhanger

Oct. 24, 2012

If the Congress and the White House can't find a way to avoid tax increases and large budget cuts -- the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- state budgets also could take a big hit.

Wasted Places: America's Brownfields

Sept. 19, 2012

Hundreds of thousands of former industrial and commercial sites around the nation can't be redeveloped without extensive environmental cleanup. But the Investigative News Network finds that a federal program designed to help get rid of toxic chemicals and other pollutants is plagued by a shortage of funds and bureaucratic problems.

BankTracker: Lending, profits growing

Sept. 11, 2012

The nation’s banks continued to recover in the second quarter, as the volume of troubled assets on their books dropped to the lowest level in three years, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Banks earned $34.5 billion, below the $35.3 billion reported for the first quarter of this year but above the $28.8 billion recorded in the second quarter of 2011.

See how your bank is doing by searching for a bank or a credit union.

Passing Thoreau

Sept. 4, 2012

After a string of suicides two years ago, money and additional resources poured into tiny Thoreau, N.M., where economies, cultures and destinies bump into each other, where a Navajo teen can lose hope and a sense of identity. The crisis is no more, but the town still sits on a ragged edge.

Who can vote?

Aug. 30, 2012

News21 students from around the nation investigate claims of voter fraud and attempts to require voters to identify themselves at polling places.

Restoring the American Dream

Aug. 19, 2012

What will it take to fix the nation's economic problems? Co-authors Barlett and Steele offer solutions, including limiting subsidized imports and insisting that foreign nations lower their barriers to U.S. goods.

End of Retirement

Aug. 12, 2012

Pensions were once an integral part of the American dream, a pledge by corporations to their employees: For your decades of work, you can count on retirement benefits. Not everyone had a pension, but from the 1950s to the 1980s, the number of workers who did rose steadily — until 1985. Since then, more and more companies have walked away from pensions. Before today's workers reach retirement age, decisions by Congress favoring moneyed interests will drive millions of older Americans — most of them women — into poverty and push millions more to the brink. 

Toxic Taps

Aug. 8, 2012

Millions of Americans may be drinking water that is contaminated with dangerous doses of lead. The Environmental Protection Agency knows it; state governments know it; local utilities know it. The only people who usually don’t know it are those who are actually drinking the toxic water.

The problem stems from a common practice in which water utilities replace sections of deteriorating lead service lines rather than the entire lines, commonly known as partial pipe replacements. It is a course of action that can do more harm than good.

 

Phantom Jobs

Aug. 4, 2012

America essentially invented outsourcing, but few outside the corporate world realized how rapidly it would devastate employment across the middle class, as imports quickly overwhelmed exports, and workers in industry after industry were sacrificed on the altar of unrestricted free trade.

Assault on the Middle Class

July 29, 2012

"The Betrayal of the American Dream" is the story of how people in power have put in place policies that have enriched themselves while cutting the ground out from underneath America’s greatest asset — its middle class. In this, the first of three excerpts from their new book, Don Barlett and Jim Steele show how 40 years of public policy and Wall Street practices have hurt working Americans.

Economic Indicators

June 19, 2012

The economic story of the past 40 years — wage stagnation, increased poverty rates, rising consumer debt — stands in sharp contrast to earlier periods in American history, when an expanding economy brought broader prosperity and created a large and dynamic middle class. The charts show the complexity of the economic picture. 

Re-manufacturing America

June 14, 2012

A new study of manufacturing employment by the Investigative Reporting Workshop shows that factory jobs declined by nearly half since the peak in 1979, when there were 21 million manufacturing workers. But we also found that manufacturing employment grew in some states west of the Mississippi. And communities such as York, Pa., still see manufacturing as integral.

Investigating Power

April 25, 2012

Since 1950, independent journalists have fearlessly reported abuses of power, such as the anti-Communist demagoguery of Sen. Joseph McCarthy; the institutionalized racism and injustice in the South; and the gross misrepresentations and civilian atrocities committed by the U.S. government during the Vietnam War. Our new website, investigatingpower.org, highlights historical moments in the reporting of those landmark stories through video interviews, timelines and biographies of key journalists. 

Connected: Rural, poor areas lag in broadband

March 23, 2012

The digital divide is more about economics than access, with people in poor states, particularly in the South, lagging behind the rest of the nation when it comes to broadband subscribership, according to an Investigative Reporting Workshop analysis of federal data. See where your state and city rank using our interactive maps and tables, and read about programs that offer potential solutions set to take effect later this year.

BankTracker: 2011 best in 5 years

March 8, 2012

The nation’s banks and credit unions had their best year since 2006, as a slowly recovering economy led to modest loan growth and lower levels of nonperforming loans.

Commercial banks made $119.5 billion in net income in 2011, the most since 2006, when they earned $145.2 billion. Credit unions earned $6.4 billion, the most ever.

Uneven dream

March 6, 2012

The economic crisis has shifted the nation’s focus to job creation but within the African-American community, a 40-year crisis of economic insecurity and dreams deferred exists with solutions that are just as unclear.

Lost in Detention

Feb. 2, 2012

The government has agreed to launch an investigation into sexual abuse at immigration detention centers. At the same time, the adminstration is weighing whether it will include immigrant detainees in regulations on prison-rape prevention, which are set to go into effect early this year. 

American Dream

Jan. 26, 2012

Many still hope to attain the American Dream, whether the term means economic success, opportunity or freedom. But a group of Baltimore-area residents said some of their dreams have had to change or even be put on hold in these uncertain times.

Elder care: Labor fights heat up

Jan. 25, 2012

Elder care and home health care are rare bright spots in the American economy, adding jobs at a steady clip. But as the workforce grows, so, too, fights focus on unionization, wages and benefits. 

Memories of another era

Dec. 24, 2011

Some call this moment the Great Recession. As the hardship has lingered, others have begun calling it the Little Depression. But equating the hard times of the 1930s with the hard times of today is mostly overblown rhetoric. Or is it?

BankTracker: Loans to small businesses down

Dec. 16, 2011

Loans to businesses of $1 million or less have been shrinking consistently since June 2008 and are now at their lowest point in 10 years. Read this story and more in our ongoing series. And see how your bank is doing by searching for a bank or a credit union.

A second look: The new Journalism Ecosystem

Nov. 30, 2011

The recent momentum of the new nonprofit journalism phenomenon is continuing despite the difficult U.S. economy, according to an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop iLab. Most of the funding for these new journalistic nonprofits comes from philanthropic foundations and individuals. A year after publishing our initial “new journalism ecosystem” story, searchable database and national map, we have revisited each of the original 60 nonprofit news publishers profiled, and we have included 15 additional journalistic nonprofits, most of them recently created organizations.

As Apple grew, American workers left behind

Nov. 19, 2011

Apple is one of America's greatest success stories, built on innovative products and the marketing acumen of a legendary founder. But it also is emblematic of another, darker reality: Almost all its manufacturing is done overseas, and left in the wake of Apple's shifting of work to China are thousands of American workers.

Lost in Detention

Nov. 18, 2011

Today there are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  How we deal with this situation as a nation, founded by undocumented immigrants, is complex. The Investigative Reporting Workshop thought this territory was perfect for our brand of in-depth reporting and storytelling. We teamed with FRONTLINE to produce a new documentary, and have continued to update our coverage. 

Redefining poverty

Nov. 7, 2011

Taking into account numerous supplemental measures, new poverty data paint a more complex and nuanced picture of who is struggling. The upshot: More seniors and fewer children are considered poor than in the "official" measure.

American Steal

Oct. 15, 2011

With millions of Americans unemployed, the reconstruction of the San Francisco Bay Bridge is well-timed to create much-needed jobs. And it has. Only the jobs are in China. Will the outsourcing of this $12 billion project deliver a death blow to the American steel industry?

Promise of green jobs falls short for many

Oct. 11, 2011

Training for green industries doesn't necessarily result in job offers, particularly for those hoping to break into entry-level positions such as wind techs, despite the administration's push. Casey McDonald and his fiancee, Jade Mooneyhan, don't need to see statistics to know that the political promises do not always equal economic reality.

Unemployment by the numbers

Oct. 10, 2011

New numbers give a fuller picture of the unemployed, and how particularly difficult it has been for young people, people of color and women to find work.

Voices of the unemployed

Sept. 19, 2011

Those looking for work and those who counsel them talk about their stress and frustration with the employment picture in this economy. In this package, you'll see video interviews from a recent job fair and learn more about programs that are trying to help those who have been looking for jobs for months.

Jobs don't mean end of struggle for working poor

Sept. 14, 2011

From the president to Congress to nearly every neighborhood in America, the focus today is on job creation. But for millions of Americans, just having a job doesn’t mean prosperity or anything like it.

Foreclosures: Housing counselors under siege

Aug. 5, 2011

Funding for housing counselors has been cut and more cuts to assistance programs for those who need help with foreclosures or even first-time home purchases take effect in October.

Crisis in the courts: Legal aid reeling from proposed budget cuts

July 12, 2011

Legal assistance for the poor will take a huge hit under a proposal just released by the House Appropriations Committee, which aims to slash funding for Legal Services Corporation by $104 million, rewinding the program’s budget back to 1999 levels.

Culture, income, location affect broadband adoption in Washington region

July 7, 2011

Our study of the Washington metro area shows that the “digital divide” is less about access to broadband and more about affordability. The analysis shows that broadband adoption is greater in the close-in suburbs than in areas farthest from the belway, though there are some exceptions.

 

Lost Jobs: Why fixing the trade deficit matters most

June 18, 2011

Congress is wrought up over the wrong deficit. The real deficit issue that has been out of control for 35 years is the trade deficit, which has blocked the creation of new jobs, triggered pay cuts for those who still have jobs and generally lowered the standard of living for many.

What Went Wrong: Taxes

April 20, 2011

One of the more egregious falsehoods being peddled by the corporate tax cutters is that companies doing business in the United States are taxed at an exorbitant rate. Not so. While the United States has one of the highest statutory rates on the books at 35 percent, the only fair way to measure what companies actually pay is their effective rate after deductions, credits and assorted writeoffs. By that yardstick, companies in the United States consistently pay taxes at rates lower than corporations in Japan and many nations in Europe.

Flying Cheaper

April 19, 2011

Sixteen US Airways pilots and flight attendants have filed a lawsuit against ST Aerospace Mobile, alleging the contract maintenance company conducted improper maintenance that led to employee illnesses. ST Mobile was one of the focuses of Flying Cheaper, a PBS FRONTLINE and Investigative Reporting Workshop co-production that looked at airline maintenance issues. The program was re-broadcast on April 19 and can be seen here.

Crisis in civil courts

Feb. 14, 2011

Poor people have fewer legal resources than ever despite battling foreclosures and seeking bankruptcy protection in tight economic times. Traditionally, people with little money could turn to the Legal Services Corporation, the federally mandated nonprofit that supports free legal-aid programs. But over the past few years, a perfect storm of conservative pushback, stagnant budgets and recessionary demand for legal services has left those who can least afford it fending for themselves.

Gunrunners

Feb. 3, 2011

The movement of guns from the United States into Mexico actually begins in Europe, with a gun supplier in Romania that sells to a company in Vermont. We examine how AK47s are remade and resold and can now be traced to crime in Mexico. This is an ongoing report in a new partnership between the Investigative Reporting Workshop, PBS FRONTLINE, the Center for Public Integrity, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism and InSight, a website co-sponsored by American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.

The Comcast-NBC merger: What it means for Internet TV

Jan. 4, 2011

Those in the know say you don’t need a television to watch TV anymore. All you need is an Internet connection and a screen.

Missed last night’s episode of 30 Rock? No worries. Log on to Hulu and watch it on your laptop. Once you’ve done that, it’s just a small step to drop your cable or satellite subscription and save a bunch of money, right?

Not so fast. Watching your fill of free TV online isn’t so easy, especially if you want to see this week’s episode of Glee at the same time as your cable-connected friends or view special events like the Super Bowl.

Blown Away: Tracking stimulus grants for renewable energy

Dec. 9, 2010

Top Democratic fundraisers and lobbyists with links to the White House are behind a proposed wind farm in Texas that stands to get $450 million in stimulus money, even though a Chinese company would operate the farm and its turbines would be built in China.

The Coal Truth

Nov. 23, 2010

No U.S. coal company had a worse safety violation and fatality record than Massey Energy Co., even before an explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed 29 on April 5, according to an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

The X-ray factor

Sept. 29, 2010

At a time when Americans are exposed to more medical radiation than ever, the patchwork regulation of technicians who perform imaging exams may be putting patients at risk. There is no national minimum standard for technicians’ training or competency or for the inspection of the medical X-ray machines they operate.

FOIA DC AUDIT

May 21, 2010

The Workshop and the D.C. Open Government Coalition analyze the District's shortcomings in complying with FOIA. See the audits by agency or by category.

Flying Cheap

Feb. 9, 2010

The crash of Continental 3407 a year ago just outside Buffalo has cast new light on the increasing importance of regional airlines and their relationships with their bigger and better-known major partners.  FRONTLINE and the Investigative Reporting Workshop explore those relationships in "Flying Cheap." See major crashes, or air traffic and crashes by airport or by airline.

Nuclear Energy’s Lobbying Push

Jan. 24, 2010

With the help of some new-found friends and a $600 million lobbying effort, the nuclear energy industry is on the brink of getting federal financial support to build reactors to generate elecricity. Already, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is swamped by a tsunami of applications, even though old issues such as safety and waste disposal still haven't been solved.

Electronic Medical Records Market Fueled by Stimulus

Nov. 5, 2009

The government’s $45 billion plan to jump-start a national shift to electronic medical records has touched off a gold rush among scores of technology firms – even as many experts question whether the benefits of the products are being oversold.

The DeParle Portfolio

July 2, 2009

Nancy Ann DeParle, who heads the White House Office on Health Reform, served as a director of corporations that faced scores of federal investigations, whistleblower lawsuits and other regulatory actions, according to government records reviewed by the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

DeParle, who ran the Medicare program in the last years of the Clinton administration made more than $6.6 million in directors' fees and stock transactions between 2001 and March of this year, Securities and Exchange Commission filings revealed.

Thyroid cancer report

May 4, 2009

Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing type of cancer in the nation, and medical researchers don't know why. The increase comes as the rates for most cancers have been declining.

Incubating new economic models for journalism.

Latest from iLab

'Future of Truth'

'Future of Truth'

Charles Lewis, founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop, wrote “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity,” which will be published June 24, 2014, by Public Affairs. The Workshop also will run a special series related to the book.

Navigating FOIA in DC

Access to government documents and data is essential to local investigative “street” reporting and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the most important tool to get them, say journalists in the D.C. community. 

 

Most Recent Posts

'Measuring impact' wins SPJ award

Measuring Impact: The art, science and mystery of nonprofit news assessment,” has won a 2013 Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in the "Research about Journalism"  category. 

'Years' project airs in April

 “Years of Living Dangerously,” a nine-part documentary on climate change created by executive producers James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub, has begun its run on Showtime. Senior Producer Margaret Ebrahim and Associate Producer Jolie Lee worked for more than a year to research, report and produce two stories for the series. 

Sunshine Week events in Washington

Here's the rundown on several panels, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom of information resources taking place in Washington this week. 

How to find stories on fraud

A free workshop hosted by the Reynolds Center for Business Reporting offered plenty of tips for how reporters can better develop enterprise stories about corporate fraud.

Learning how to make the most of our data at NICAR

At this year's annual NICAR conference, journalists from the Workshop are learning and refining new ways to augment our investigations with computer-assisted reporting. 

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.

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.