A new series from the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting brings extensive investigative journalism to public television in four hourlong episodes.
In its short run, Reveal aims to find new and engaging ways to tell investigative stories. Available to stations starting today, the show is presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting and distributed by the National Educational Telecommunications Association.
An episode of Reveal is composed as a visual counterpart to a newspaper — starting with a topical, longer report, moving on to shorter reports and ending with an informative animation component. In one episode, a story early in the show focuses on a woman from Afghanistan who ran away from an arranged marriage to be with the man she loved, only to be found and sent to prison by her father.
The piece was shot on location in Afghanistan and reported by an Iranian journalist who spoke Dari. The Reveal team dedicated several years to following the story, which involved gathering testimonies from the woman’s family and her lover, as well as following up after her release from prison.
For Reveal, CIR chose stories that could prompt audiences to respond and bring about change, said Amanda Pike, director of video and an executive producer at CIR. “One of the goals for CIR has always been impact,” Pike said.
Based in California, CIR’s in-depth journalism has focused on subjects including the over-prescription of opiates to veterans and recruitment of children by drug cartels. The organization has collaborated extensively with PBS NewsHour, Frontline and commercial news outlets such as Al Jazeera and The New York Times.
Its new TV series draws from CIR’s YouTube channel, The I Files. Drawing reports from online for a public television series is giving them “a new life” and putting them before a different audience, said Pike.
“We do a lot of video, and we wanted a chance to test this idea of having Reveal really hit all of the major public media channels, from digital to radio to TV,” said Joaquin Alvarado, CIR’s c.e.o. A series of public radio specials also titled Reveal will go into monthly production in January 2015 and then shift to weekly slots in July.
The TV series came about after David Davis, v.p. of television production at OPB, watched CIR’s videos and suggested combining them into an episode for public television. “We’re always interested in good television,” Davis said. “I’d seen some of the videos, and they’re very well done.”
Davis said he looked to NETA for distribution because of OPB’s past experience with the distributor, as well as NETA’s flexibility and willingness to distribute programming that may be challenging or controversial.
CIR funded the four-part TV series independently of its radio counterpart, with support from organizations including the Gruber Family Foundation and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Repurposing reports from YouTube helped to keep costs down. CIR will consider feedback from stations and viewers to determine whether to produce more episodes, and it will continue to post videos on YouTube.