My name is Russ Baker. For more than two decades I have been an investigative journalist, doing what I believe journalists are supposed to do – provide information crucial to a well-informed citizenry in democracy. Over the years, however, I have noted a growing gap between what I have uncovered and what I see reported elsewhere. I have become exasperated with what I do not hear, the questions never asked and the stories never told.
I believe this lack of thorough reporting is caused by an endemic problem in the news industry. The value structure of modern journalism is warped to emphasize deadlines and profit margins over investigation and accountability. Journalists are on tight schedules and increasingly lack the time and resources necessary to conduct thorough independent investigations. This leads to an under-critical journalistic landscape reliant on the half-truths and convenient facts of corporate and governmental sources.
The time is ripe for a better model of journalistic integrity.
Who We Are
WhoWhatWhy embodies a form of investigative reporting that is rigorous, relentless and scientific – we call it forensic journalism.
Forensic journalism requires skepticism towards power and credentialed expertise; a determination to unearth the facts interested parties want to keep hidden; and an unflinching commitment to follow the trail wherever it leads. We are truth seeking-not quote seeking.
We take on controversial topics others will not touch and dig deep to uncover and name the institutions and persons shaping our world. Our organization is neither partisan nor ideological and only provides accounts based on extensive research and thorough sourcing.
In addition to producing rigorous investigative reporting, we seek to further the long-term survival and betterment of the news industry as a whole.
We pair senior reporters who have decades of experience with dedicated young journalists new to the field. We facilitate the transfer of values, methods and culture as our talented and varied investigators shape an improved and adaptive form of journalism to fit our times.
We strongly encourage our readers to join us in our mission. If you know of a news, academic or literary source that relates to one of our stories, tell us about it. If there is a story of interest that hasn’t received coverage or documented facts we are missing, let us know! Consider yourself the media watchdog for the media watchdog.
WhoWhatWhy is made up of a combination of full-time journalists, expert advisors and other specialists.
Russ Baker is an award-winning investigative reporter with a track record for making sense of complex and little understood matters-and explaining it to elites and ordinary people alike, using entertaining, accessible writing to inform and involve.
Over the course of more than two decades in journalism, Baker has broken scores of major stories. Topics included: early reporting on inaccuracies in the articles of The New York Times’s Judith Miller that built support for the invasion of Iraq; the media campaign to destroy UN chief Kofi Annan and undermine confidence in multilateral solutions; revelations by George Bush’s biographer that as far back as 1999 then-presidential candidate Bush already spoke of wanting to invade Iraq; the real reason Bush was grounded during his National Guard days – as recounted by the widow of the pilot who replaced him; an article published throughout the world that highlighted the West’s lack of resolve to seriously pursue the genocidal fugitive Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, responsible for the largest number of European civilian deaths since World War II; several investigations of allegations by former members concerning the practices of Scientology; corruption in the leadership of the nation’s largest police union; a well-connected humanitarian relief organization operating as a cover for unauthorized US covert intervention abroad; detailed evidence that a powerful congressional critic of Bill Clinton and Al Gore for financial irregularities and personal improprieties had his own track record of far more serious transgressions; a look at the practices and values of top Democratic operative and the clients they represent when out of power in Washington; the murky international interests that fueled both George W. Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns; the efficacy of various proposed solutions to the failed war on drugs; the poor-quality televised news program for teens (with lots of advertising) that has quietly seeped into many of America’s public schools; an early exploration of deceptive practices by the credit card industry; a study of ecosystem destruction in Irian Jaya, one of the world’s last substantial rain forests.
Baker has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice and Esquire and dozens of other major domestic and foreign publications. He has also served as a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. Baker received a 2005 Deadline Club award for his exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s military record. He is the author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2009); it was released in paperback as Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Secret History of the Last Fifty Years. For more information on Russ’s work, see his sites, www.familyofsecrets.com and www.russbaker.com.
Editorial Advisory Council: (Affiliations are for identification purposes only)
Mark Dowie (San Francisco) teaches science at The University of California Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former Editor-at-Large of InterNation, a transnational feature syndicate based in New York, and a former Publisher and Editor of Mother Jones magazine. During his 35 years in journalism, Dowie has written over 200 investigative reports for magazines, newspapers and other publications. Before and after working for Mother Jones, he also either worked or wrote regularly for the Cleveland Press, the San Francisco Examiner, California Magazine and American Health. He is the author of five books and the recipient of 18 journalism awards, including four National Magazine Awards.
Robert Dreyfuss (Washington, DC) is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, an investigative history of U.S. policy toward political Islam. For fifteen years, he has worked as an independent journalist who specializes in magazine features, profiles, and investigative stories in the areas of politics and national security. Based in Alexandria, Va., he covers national security for Rolling Stone’s National Affairs section. He is also a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, and a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. His web site is www.robertdreyfuss.com .
Daniel Ellsberg (Berkeley) is a pioneering whistleblower. A former Defense and State Department official, his unauthorized release to the Senate and later the media of a top- secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam exposed massive deceptions by the government and contributed to the end of the war. Misconduct in a government prosecution of Ellsberg led to the convictions of White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. Since the end of the war he has been a lecturer, writer and activist. He is the author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
Margaret Engel (Washington, DC) served as the managing editor of the Newseum, the interactive museum of news in Washington, D.C. She is the president of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the nation’s oldest journalism writing fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University. She is a board member of the Fund for Investigative Journalism and a longtime member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. She has been part of the reporting staffs of The Washington Post, the Des Moines Register and the Lorain (OH) Journal.
Todd Gitlin (New York) is a professor of Journalism and Sociology at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A contributor to Mother Jones, The Nation and other publications, he is one of America’s leading cultural critics. Among his many books are The Whole World is Watching; Inside Prime Time; and Media Unlimited.
Mark Hertsgaard (San Francisco) is the author most recently of The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World (2002). Previous books include Earth Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future(1999) and On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency (1988). He has contributed to leading publications the world over, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, and the Guardian. He is the environment correspondent for The Nation, the political correspondent for Link TV, and a commentator for the national radio program “Marketplace.”
Jonathan Z. Larsen (New York) worked at Time magazine as an editor and correspondent (including Saigon bureau chief), and was editor of New Times (1974-1979) and The Village Voice (1989-1994). He was a Nieman Fellow (1979-80) and has written for New York, Manhattan, Inc., New England Monthly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. In 1985 he won a Clarion Award. He currently serves on the board of Cambridge College and Sterling College.
Frances Moore Lappe (Boston) is author of Diet for a Small Planet and 14 other books including Democracy’s Edge. Co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (also known as Food First), and the American News Service (1995-2000).
Robert W. McChesney (Illinois) is Research Professor in the Institute of Communications Research (ICR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the President and co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization. His work concentrates on the history and political economy of communication, and on threats from media monopolies. McChesney has written or edited eleven books, including the multiple award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. In 2001 Adbusters Magazine named him one of the “Nine Pioneers of Mental Environmentalism.”
Morton Mintz (Washington, DC), a former chair of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, spent 30 years at The Washington Post. He is Senior Advisor to the journalism Web site Niemanwatchdog.com, served as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and is the author and co-author of numerous books. He has received the Worth Bingham, Heywood Broun, and George Polk Memorial Awards; the Columbia [University] Journalism Award, the Playboy Foundation’s Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for Lifetime Achievement, and, twice, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild award for Public Service.
James C. Moore (Austin, TX) is an Emmy-winning former television news correspondent and the co-author of the bestselling, Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. His second book, Bush’s War for Reelectionincluded his groundbreaking ten year investigation into the president’s National Guard record. He has been writing and reporting from Texas for the past 25 years on the rise of Rove and Bush and has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976. He is also the author of The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power. His political columns and insights have been published in leading newspapers and periodicals around the globe. Moore is also an award winning documentary film producer. His current book project, When Horses Could Fly: A Memoir of the American Dream is a narrative examining the hopes and dreams of southerners in the aftermath of World War II.
Roger Morris (Georgia) is an award-winning author and investigative journalist who served in the Foreign Service and on the Senior Staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Before resigning over the invasion of Cambodia, he was one of only three officials comprising Henry Kissinger’s Special Projects Staff conducting the initial highly secret “back-channel” negotiations with Hanoi to end the Vietnam War in 1969-1970. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, 1913-1952, and the best-selling Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, as well as, most recently, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America (co-authored with historian Sally Denton).
Alvin H. Perlmutter (New York) is Executive Director of the Independent Production Fund. His television programs have aired on PBS, commercial networks and cable, and been broadcast globally. Perlmutter previously served as NBC News Vice President, where he was responsible for all network documentaries and news magazine programs. Perlmutter has received numerous awards including six Emmys for The Great American Dream Machine, Adam Smith’s Money World, and Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers.
Wendell Potter (Philadelphia, PA) After a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, Potter left his job as head of communications for CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, to work for meaningful health care reform. In widely-covered testimony before Congress, he provided a window into health insurer internal practices. Potter, who now serves as a Senior Fellow on Health Care at the Center for Media and Democracy, has worked as a journalist, including with Scripps-Howard. He is the author of Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans.
Sydney Schanberg (New York) won the Pulitzer Prize for his New York Timesreporting on the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia. He won the George Polk Award twice. Schanberg has also worked for Newsday and The Village Voice.
David Talbot (San Francisco, CA) is one of the pioneers of online journalism. A former senior editor at Mother Jones magazine and features editor for the San Francisco Examiner, he was founder and editor-in-chief of Salon.com, one of the earliest and most important web magazines. His current company, Talbot Players, is a creative shop involved with the development of books, graphic novels, films and more. He is author of the book, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.
Steve Weinberg (Columbia, MO) is a professor at the University of Missouri Journalism School, a former newspaper and magazine staff writer, and a full-time freelance writer since 1978. In addition to his reporting, writing and teaching, Weinberg served as executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), a 5000-member organization, from 1983-1990. He currently serves as an editor of the IRE magazine. Weinberg is the author of six nonfiction books, several of them seminal works on investigative journalism.
Patricia J. Williams (New York) is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University. She served as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles and as staff lawyer, Western Center on Law and Poverty. Fellow at the School of Criticism and Theory, Dartmouth College, and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Williams published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law, and on other issues of legal theory and legal writing. Books include The Alchemy of Race and Rights; The Rooster’s Egg; and Seeing a ColorBlind Future: The Paradox of Race. Columnist, The Nation. MacArthur fellow. Board of Trustees, Wellesley College.
Development Steering Committee: (Affiliations are for identification purposes only)
Karen Croft: Karen is an editor and producer and VP of The Talbot Players, a creative shop launched by Salon.com founder David Talbot; she is in San Francisco.
Peter Franck: Peter is a lawyer focused on intellectual property, entertainment and media law. A long time media activist, Peter chairs the Lawyers Guild Committee on Democratic Communications and is a former president of the Pacifica Foundation; he is in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cathe Kruger: Cathe is Executive VP of American Friends of the Phelophepa Train, a charity for rural health care in South Africa; she lives in New York and South Africa.
Michael L. McGrael: During a career spanning forty years, Michael provided program leadership in philanthropy, strategic planning, and on issues of governance and mission development to charitable organizations in higher education, the arts & culture, health care and social & community services. Now retired, he makes his home in Port Charlotte, FL.
Stephanie Schoen: Stephanie handles donor relations for Northeastern University; she is in Boston.
Richard Schrader: Richard is New York Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council; he is in Springfield, MA.
Jamie Wolf: Jamie is a writer and vice president of PEN Center USA, the literary and freedom of expression group; she is in Beverly Hills.
Social Media Outreach
Facebook Community Editor
Steven J. Fuld
David MacHenry, with a Masters in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University, David has extensive background as a research librarian, an information specialist, and a librarian for a major corporation.
Gerald Jonas served as a staff writer on The New Yorker for 30 years, and as the longtime science fiction book critic for The New York Times. He is the author of six nonfiction books, including “The Circuit Riders: Rockefeller Money and the Rise of Modern Science.” His work has also appeared in Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic, and Grand Street. He graduated from Yale College magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. In addition to numerous awards in journalism and documentary film writing he won a Henry Fellowship to Cambridge University, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Fellowship.
Story Editor Milicent Cranor has among other things been a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance; a creative and acquisitions editor for Saturday Review Press; a staff writer for the original Applause Magazine; and a writer for Docent Corporation where she created tests for medical students using the techniques of mystery writers; and co-author of over a dozen articles on cancer research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
Consulting Art Director
Nancy Novick served as Art Director/Photo Editor, Columbia Journalism Review; chief designer, Journalism Graphics, serving major Journalistic operations such as the Overseas Press Club, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and photo research/photo editor for trade publications in news, history and political science.
Reporting and Writing Team
The team is in formation. Our reporter-writers will include both heavily experienced investigative journalists and talented, energetic entry-level reporters with training at America’s finest journalism schools.