It's possible that you've never heard of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. As reporters, they keep a low public profile. They are, some might say, "old school" investigative reporters – relishing the opportunity to plow through documents and databases to produce comprehensive investigations. Last week's EXPOSÉ spotlighted the duo's recent inquiry into one of the defense department's highest-paid “body shops." But Barlett and Steele have been exposing government and corporate malfeasance since 1971, when they started working together at the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER — a tenure that lasted 26 years until they moved to TIME magazine. Then, last year, TIME laid off more than 600 people in a budget crunch. The veteran reporters were among those let go — a move that many decried as evidence of the downfall of investigative journalism in a rapidly shrinking industry.
Now contributing editors at VANITY FAIR, Barlett and Steele are digging back in and doing what they do best: hard-hitting investigative reporting. After careers that produced prize-winning investigations — merited two Pulitzers and two National Magazine Awards, among other awards – they have set journalistic benchmarks for more than 30 years. A few of the highlights:
• In 1972, they analyzed more than 1,000 cases of violent crime in Philadelphia for “Crime and Injustice." It was the largest computer-assisted project of its time.
• Their PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER newspaper series "America: What Went Wrong" dissected the nation's ongoing recession and was so popular the paper received more than 400,000 requests for reprints. The nine-part series was published as a book in 1992.
• A TIME magazine series in 1998 exposed government economic incentives to businesses as a form of "corporate welfare" that turned "politicians into bribery specialists, and smart business people into con artists."
• In 2004, the two set out to diagnose how porous the U.S.-Mexico border actually was. Their investigation for TIME revealed that the border had grown less, not more, secure since 9/11.
Check back later this week for web-exclusive video of the pair discussing their work together over the past 30 years.