Inside Public Integrity

Published — October 29, 2013 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Center founder Charles Lewis urges reporters to ‘follow the money’

In IRE-sponsored web chat, Lewis also offers optimistic forecast for future of investigative reporting


Charles Lewis, the former 60 Minutes producer who founded of the Center for Public Integrity, today encouraged political reporters to examine “who stands to benefit” when politicians are elected and to not just cover the “horse race.”

“‘Follow the money’ is some of the best advice any reporter can do about any story they are working on,” Lewis said during an online chat sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc.

This concept is critically important in the political arena, Lewis added, because “voters and the public have a right to know who we’re getting before they are elected.”

Despite the fact that commercial newsrooms have been shrinking, with fewer and fewer organizations devoting resources for quality investigative journalism, Lewis expressed optimism for the industry during the 30-minute Google Hangout, which was moderated by Michael Beckel, a political reporter at the Center

Nonprofits — which, Lewis argued, offer “more autonomy,” “more control” and “more time” — can offer much-needed content to traditional, commercial news outlets, he said.

“You’re going to see this collaboration between the two realms — at least for the next few years,” Lewis said. “What happens after that? Anyone who says they know for sure should be locked away somewhere, because actually no one knows.”

Added Lewis: “Even though I’m an old dog, I can see there’s something over the hill there, and I’m really excited.”

In 1989, Lewis started the Center for Public Integrity from his home and grew it into a journalistic powerhouse employing 40 people. Under Lewis’ leadership, the Center published 14 books in 15 years, including The Buying of the President 2004, which was a New York Times bestseller.

Since 2008, Lewis has served as the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington, D.C.

IRE is a nonprofit organization created in 1975 that is “dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting.”

Previous IRE-sponsored Google Hangouts, including the one in May about International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ offshore leaks project, can be found here.

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