2009 Silha Lecture: Unspoken Realities about Investigative Journalism and the Law

With Charles "Chuck" Lewis

With its First Amendment protections, relative transparency, and physical security afforded to all citizens, the United States should be the world's most hospitable place for investigative reporting.

But paradoxically, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that very few "investigative stories . . . confront[ed] directly powerful institutions about basic business practices while those institutions were still powerful." The major news media have been reluctant to conduct these investigations for years. They have also failed to report on the oversight and accountability functions of government. Investigative reporters who have tried to do it are thwarted by their own timid or cash-strapped employers. As a result, the public is not as well informed as it should be.

What has discouraged the traditional watchdog's inclination to bark—let alone bite?

Charles "Chuck" Lewis, executive editor of the new Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington, D.C., will address these questions in his 2009 Silha Lecture, "Unspoken Realities about Investigative Journalism and the Law" at 7:00 p.m. on October 21, 2009, at Cowles Auditorium on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

A national investigative journalist for the past 30 years, Lewis worked at ABC News, CBS News 60 Minutes, and was the founder and former executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. The co-author of five books, including the national bestseller The Buying of the President 2004, he is preparing a new book about truth, power, the news media and the public's right to know.

Lewis faced legal threats from many quarters while leading the Center for Public Integrity and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the first working network of 100 premier reporters in 50 countries. Despite warnings from the Justice Department under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Center published the secret draft "Patriot II" legislation. In October 2003, the Center posted online the U.S. war contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, first revealing Halliburton as the top war contractor. That report, Windfalls of War, won the prestigious George Polk Award. The Center also filed 73 Freedom of Information Act requests and successfully sued the Army and the State Department in federal court to obtain and publish the Halliburton and other lucrative contracts.

Lewis received the PEN USA First Amendment Award in 2004 "for expanding the reach of investigative journalism, for his courage in going after a story regardless of whose toes he steps on, and for boldly exercising his freedom of speech and freedom of the press."

For more about this event, click on the following links:
Video of the 24th Annual Silha Lecture

Event Location

Cowles Auditorium, West Bank

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