Frontline creates cross-platform investigative unit with help from Ford Foundation

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Frontline has hired two investigative reporters and promoted a digital specialist to create its first desk producing original investigative journalism across platforms.

Team members, from left, Sarah Childress, Anya Bourg, Shauna Stuart and James Jacoby, with Frontline Deputy Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. (Photo: Eric Gulliver)

Team members, from left, Sarah Childress, Anya Bourg, Shauna Stuart and James Jacoby, with Frontline Deputy Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. (Photo: Eric Gulliver)

The Enterprise Journalism Group, announced Wednesday, consists of new hires James Jacoby and Anya Bourg, who previously produced for CBS’s 60 Minutes. Frontline’s senior digital reporter, Sarah Childress, was promoted onto the team.

The group is supported by an $800,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, announced in June. Over the next two years, the journalists will report major projects via text, video, photos, audio and graphics across Frontline’s platforms.

Raney Aronson-Rath, deputy executive producer, said journalistic flexibility is driving the project. “Maybe there’s a story that should go digital-first, so we get it up quickly,” she said. “Or maybe we’ll write a longer story for online, with video extras. Or perhaps it will run broadcast first.”

Enterprise journalism “is one of the most important functions of Frontline,” she said. “This is the best way to approach it, to see just how ambitious and versatile we can be.”

Jacoby spent four years with 60 Minutes, producing investigative reports with correspondent Steve Kroft. Previously Jacoby produced at CNBC, including several documentaries examining the recent global financial crisis. He’s also worked for Channel 4 in Great Britain.

“I have long wanted to hire James,” Aronson-Rath said. “He’s one of the best young producers out there.” The two have been discussing a place for him at Frontline for three years, she said.

Bourg most recently produced for 60 Minutes Sports, which premiered in 2013 on Showtime, after working for eight years on 60 Minutes. Her work has also appeared on This American Life, and she worked as a researcher and assistant producer at Frontline.

Childress has worked at Frontline as a digital reporter for three years. She began her career at Newsweek, covering Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. She was the Wall Street Journal’s Africa correspondent.

Working with the three will be Shauna Stuart, Frontline’s digital community specialist, who will help spread stories across social media and other platforms.

Aronson-Rath said she clarified her vision and goals for cross-platform enterprise work in conversations with Ford’s Jonathan Barzilay, who manages the foundation’s support for public-service journalism.