INN honors Lewis with lifetime achievement award

Charles Lewis on AU campus Charles Lewis was honored by INN for his pioneering work in developing nonprofit newsrooms. (Kris HIggins / IRW)

By IRW staff


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Investigative Reporting Workshop Founder and Executive Editor Charles Lewis received the inaugural Nonprofit News Lifetime Achievement Award in an Oct. 13 ceremony.
The award, presented by the Institute for Nonprofit News, honors an individual who has made significant, innovative and lasting contributions to the field of independent, nonprofit news.
Lewis, dubbed “the godfather of nonprofit investigative journalism,” has devoted his career to nurturing and building the capacity of investigative reporting and nonprofit news. He founded or co-founded five nonprofit journalistic enterprises (including INN) and has served on approximately 15 nonprofit boards of directors or advisory boards in the past 25 years.

Two nonprofit news organizations Lewis founded have earned Pulitzer Prizes: the Center for Public Integrity and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Lewis, a former ABC News and CBS News “60 Minutes” producer, now serves as professor of journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., where he founded IRW, a nonprofit, independent newsroom based at the School of Communication.
Sue Cross, INN’s executive director and CEO, referenced Lewis’s visionary role in creating a new model to emphasize collaboration and community-building.

“Chuck and a small group of journalists dreamed up INN as a consortium to save investigative reporting by sharing it, as a public service,” Cross said during the virtual ceremony.

“Before then, [journalistic] collaborations were few,” she said. “Journalism was a dog-eat-dog business. Scoops killed friendships. Today, the collaborations you see are the result of Chuck’s ability to convince the top journalists in the country to set aside competition and report together for the public’s good. His vision changed journalism.”
Lorie Hearn, founder of San Diego’s nonprofit inewsource, also spoke during the ceremony of Lewis’ influence.

“Chuck was the first to describe nonprofit news as an ‘ecosystem’ – inewssource has been part of that,” she said. “Chuck was a mentor to me, taking late-night calls as I tried to figure out how to make all this work. He’s always cheerleading but always being realistic. On the top of the list for Chuck is quality and vision. No one is more deserving of this lifetime achievement recognition.”
“To say this is overwhelming is an understatement,”  Lewis said. “I’ve had a lot of fun ‘investigating the bastards.’ From being sued by Russian oligarchs and other tough scrapes, I’ve been very fortunate as a journalist. I was present at INN’s creation in 2009 — it’s magnificent the extent to which INN and the industry has grown over time to grow to more than 300 nonprofit newsrooms. It has been humbling and delightful to see the work of the awardees recognized here today.”

Lewis continues to teach and has mentored dozens of young journalists over the years in the classroom and as interns at IRW.

The Lifetime Achievement Award capped the first presentation of the Nonprofit News Awards. Among the projects cited for distinction are investigations that empowered communities, projects that informed readers and broke barriers and innovations that led to success for nonprofit newsrooms.

View the full list of winners and finalists with links to award-winning work.