The Center for Investigative Reporting, the nation’s first nonprofit investigative journalism organization, has appointed a new chief executive officer, the CIR board announced today. Acting CEO Christa Scharfenberg has been elevated to the position effective immediately.
Scharfenberg, who has been acting CEO since September 2017, previously was the head of studio, overseeing CIR’s audio and documentary initiatives. In recent years, she has contributed to the vision and provided oversight for much of the organization’s successful innovation, including launching Reveal, the leading investigative reporting public radio show and podcast, produced with PRX. The Peabody Award and duPont-Columbia University Award-winning show is now carried on more than 470 stations around the country.
“After an extensive national search, the board concluded that Christa is the embodiment of what CIR has stood for since its birth 40 years ago and its dynamic future,” said CIR Executive Board Chair Phil Bronstein. “Working with Christa directly, it’s been a complete pleasure witnessing her successfully drive the ambition and innovation of CIR through her quiet command and profound understanding of the ways great investigative journalism can change people’s lives for the better.
“Christa has a unique combination of compassion and tenacity, of humility and professionally respected accomplishments, particularly critical at a time of great disruption and threats to a free press. Her many talents give us all great hope that we will, even more than before, be the sunlight that disinfects the dark places of our world. We have every reason to expect that her leadership will be extraordinary.”
Since joining CIR in 2003, Scharfenberg has been at the forefront of a leadership team that has taken CIR from a $1.5 million organization to an $11 million operation today. Beyond building Reveal into the brand it is now, she helped found CIR’s California Watch project in 2010, which at the time was the largest investigative team in the state. She also oversaw many aspects of CIR’s merger with San Francisco-based local nonprofit news site The Bay Citizen in 2012. Scharfenberg was a 2014 fellow in the Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at the Columbia University Journalism School.
“The Center for Investigative Reporting is one of the most resilient, collaborative and relevant news organizations in the country,” Scharfenberg said. “Building on our 40-year history and our recent award recognition and impact, I want to raise the visibility and reach of CIR’s public service journalism, seizing on the increasing value of investigative reporting in our democracy.”
At a time when investigative reporting is under siege, Scharfenberg is committed to seeing the organization through its next phase of growth and innovation. In recent years, CIR has expanded its reach and coverage, often collaborating closely with news organizations across the country to tell important investigative stories for local and national audiences. CIR currently is co-producing content with more than 50 partners, building the capacity of local newsrooms and news consortia through its Reveal Local Labs initiative and helping advance the careers of female journalists and journalists of color working in its newsroom and in outlets nationwide.
CIR’s work has been recognized for its excellence, groundbreaking creativity and impact. In the last year alone, CIR was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in the national reporting category for All Work. No Pay., which judges said “poignantly expos(ed) a shocking practice that took root in Oklahoma, Arkansas and other states in which, under the guise of criminal justice reform, judges steered defendants into drug rehabs that were little more than lucrative work camps for private industry;” an Alfred I. DuPont award winner for a Reveal episode tracing the roots of the anti-gay movement in Russia; and a finalist for the 2018 Academy Award for best short documentary for “Heroin(e),” its first documentary distributed in partnership with Netflix. The film highlighted both the despair and the hope in West Virginia around the opioid crisis.
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