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The Center for Investigative Reporting is the oldest nonprofit investigative reporting organization in the United States and is located in Berkeley, Calif. It also includes the nonprofit news sites formerly known as The Bay Citizen and California Watch.

The center was founded in 1977 by Lowell Bergman, Dan Noyes, and David Weir as a place dedicated to in-depth reporting through funding and distributing investigative journalism. The center distributes its work by partnering with newspapers, TV networks and online news organizations, and has collaborated with the Los Angeles Times, NPR, Frontline, and Salon.com. The center receives its funding from the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Open Society, among others.

In 2009 CIR founded California Watch, an organization focused on public affairs reporting in California. Similar to CIR, California Watch relies on foundation funding for its operating budget. The organization is part of CIR’s larger plan to find sustainable revenue streams for the nonprofit reporting, starting with California Watch’s news service, which charges a small fee to news outlets for using their reports.

In March 2012, the Center merged with the nonprofit Bay Area news site The Bay Citizen, with CIR acting as a parent organization for The Bay Citizen. The combined organization had a staff of about 70 and a budget of $10.5 million in 2012. In 2013, CIR announced that both California Watch and The Bay Citizen’s brands would be discontinued, with their work continued under the CIR banner. The organization announced a renewed focus on a blend of local, state, and national investigative projects. Most of the new organization’s funding came from individual donations in 2012.

CIR has received the Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Silver Baton, a George Polk Award, a National Magazine Award for Reporting Excellence, and an Emmy. The center’s current executive chair is Phil Bronstein, previously the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.

In 2012, CIR launched an investigative news channel on YouTube called The I Files through an $800,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. The channel features investigative work from numerous CIR partners, including the Investigative News Network. In 2013, CIR began partnering with Public Radio Exchange to produce a show on the process of investigative reporting. The show, Reveal, won a Peabody award for its first episode and landed $3.5 million in grants from the Reva and David Logan Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

CIR used Kickstarter in 2013 to raise money for FOIA Machine, a site to help people make Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Primary author: Justin Ellis. Main text last updated: July 31, 2014.
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