This past year has been an important – and wild – one for us at Reveal and The Center for Investigative Reporting. We launched a monthly radio show. We brought in a lot of new people to do that. We are now preparing to take that show weekly as soon as the calendar flips over to 2016.
But we’ve never lost focus on our core mission: to have an impact.
So in that spirit, here’s a rundown of some of the dust we’ve kicked up, the changes we’ve spurred and the conversations we’ve started over the last year.
In 2015, our investigations got …
… people fired.
He earned the nickname the “Candy Man” for liberally dispensing opiates and other drugs to veterans. Now, Dr. David Houlihan is no longer the chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Tomah, Wisconsin, after our stories showed how veterans there had been “doped up,” “zombified” and even killed by the overuse of prescription drugs and how an entire community was impacted by it. He wasn’t the only person who lost their job over the troubles. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin fired one staff member and demoted others after learning that they failed to act on a whistleblower report.
And that’s just a sliver of the fallout.
… people convicted of crimes.
So far, nine people have been convicted after our Rehab Racket investigation with CNN found widespread fraud across Southern California. For example, drug rehabilitation operators bribed vulnerable people with cash and cigarettes to attend taxpayer-funded sessions. The state’s drug rehab system for the needy is now in the midst of a comprehensive overhaul, thanks in part to the project.
… people in new homes.
They were veterans and grandmothers, and they lived in public housing squalor that Richmond, California’s top housing official conceded was uninhabitable. Now, they’re moving out and getting better housing, thanks to our reporting.
… big companies in trouble.
The University of Phoenix can’t recruit on military bases or participate in the Department of Defense’s tuition assistance program after we revealed that the for-profit school improperly gained exclusive access to recruit on military bases by sponsoring events. The whole ordeal even caused Arizona’s own Sen. John McCain to act like he didn’t know us.
And after another one of our investigations showed that major oil companies are avoiding accountability for worker deaths in the dangerous Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, the federal government stepped up enforcement of workplace safety laws.
… people talking.
They’re some of the most invisible workers in the American economy: night shift janitors. They’re often women who work alone, at night, in empty buildings. And it turns out they’re especially vulnerable to sexual abuse on the job. Rape on the Night Shift, a bilingual collaboration among five news organizations, uncovered the hazards these workers face. It showed how the country’s largest janitorial company has a history of facing accusations that it failed to protect workers from predatory co-workers and supervisors. Now, the documentary is being screened across the country. And it’s being used by government agencies and nonprofits for training and to raise awareness.
… communities empowered.
Before we published our investigation into the strawberry industry’s heavy reliance on dangerous pesticides, many residents of California’s strawberry country had little idea of the potential harm they faced from lingering chemicals. Following the stories, politicians, teachers and residents in Ventura County demanded more accountability. The county Board of Supervisors called hearings demanding answers from regulators over a loophole that allowed Dow AgroSciences and growers to use higher amounts of the pesticides than scientists thought was appropriate. The supervisors now have put into place rules calling for more air monitoring.
… people sleuthing.
Thousands of dead bodies, unidentified. Thousands of missing people, their fate unknown to their loved ones. We combined databases of both lists into one app, The Lost & The Found, when putting together our comprehensive look at how America fails Jane and John Does. The result: Amateur sleuths are combing through the databases looking for signs of a potential match – a tattoo, a birthmark, pieces of clothing – to report to law enforcement agencies. So far, more than 100 potential matches have been reported.
… the Army looking into allegations of detainee abuse.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command launched a war crimes investigation directly in response to our radio story about alleged detainee abuse in Iraq that aired in February. Experts say this is one of only a handful of similar investigations that the military has conducted since the Abu Ghraib scandal. The investigation continues.
… a religion in the hot seat.
In February, we revealed that for 25 years, the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – one of the world’s most secretive religions – has instructed its elders to keep cases of child sexual abuse secret from law enforcement and members of their own congregations. In some cases, this allowed perpetrators to strike again. It’s also not confined to the United States. Last week, the Australian government came to similar conclusions.
… a drought posse created.
Maybe you’ve heard of The Wet Prince of Bel Air. We exposed the existence of this mystery water guzzler in October. In the midst of a historic drought, this California resident had used nearly 12 million gallons in a year. Only we didn’t know who this person was, thanks to an exemption the state’s public records law designed to protect Silicon Valley executives. After our story, the Los Angeles City Council commissioned a plan to curb mega-users. And L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez and a group of local residents formed a drought posse to roam the well-hedged streets of Bel Air in search of the culprit.
They never found The Wet Prince. But we haven’t given up.
Stay tuned for even more in 2016.