Charles Lewis, a former ABC News and CBS News “60 Minutes” producer, founded two Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news organizations, the award-winning, nonprofit Center for Public Integrity (1989) and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (1997), the first global network of premier investigative reporters to develop and publish online multimedia exposés across borders. The ICIJ published the Panama Papers in April 2016, its 26th cross-border investigation; it is the largest collaboration in the history of journalism, involving a leaked cache of 11.5 million financial records, analyzed and reported by more than 370 journalists in 76 countries and published in over 100 newspapers around the world.
Under his leadership, the nonpartisan Center published roughly 300 investigative reports, including 14 books, from 1989 through 2004, and its major reporting projects were honored more than 30 times by national journalism organizations. In 1996, the New Yorker called the Center for Public Integrity “the center for campaign scoops.”
For example, that year the Center published a report, “Fat Cat Hotel,” which first revealed that the Clinton administration had been rewarding major donors with White House overnight stays in the “Lincoln Bedroom” (and others). In 2003, weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Center published secret, controversial, draft Justice Department “Patriot II Act” legislation, and in October the Center/ICIJ posted all of the known U.S. war contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Windfalls of War” first identified that Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root had received the most money from those contracts, and the report won the first George Polk Award for Internet Reporting.
Lewis is the author of “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity” (2014), and co-author of five Center books: “The Buying of the President” (1996), “The Buying of the Congress” (1998), “The Buying of the President” (2000), “The Cheating of America” (2001), and “The Buying of the President” (2004), a New York Times bestseller.
Lewis is a professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C., and the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He has been a Ferris Professor at Princeton University, a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He is now emeritus executive editor at IRW.
Lewis was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1998, and in 2004, he was given the PEN USA First Amendment award “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.” In 2009, the Encyclopedia of Journalism called him “one of the 30 most notable investigative reporters in the U.S. since World War I.” In 2014, the Wall Street Journal observed, “With the founding of the Center for Public Integrity in the 1980s, Charles Lewis probably did more than anyone else to launch institutional nonprofit journalism in America.”
In 2018, he was awarded the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.