Capital City Fund For Investigative Journalism


To foster investigative journalism in the DC region by raising funds and awarding grants to journalists pursuing game-changing projects in the public interest.


A year from our launch, articles funded by SpotlightDC have closed loopholes that allowed landlords to evict tenants without notice; focused council oversight on “sweetheart deals” with trash companies; prompted judges to review “unconstitutional” detaining of unindicted defendants.


SpotlightDC won the Institute for Nonprofit News Best Investigative Journalism Award. Projects funded by SpotlightDC are Finalists for the Livingston and Gerald Loeb Award and have been nominated for prizes by Institute for Nonprofit News, Alt-Weekly and IRE.

‘Unknown Subject’ Potomac River Rapist Podcast Promo

The crimes went unsolved for 30 years. First a woman attacked in her Gaithersburg home in 1991. Four months later an 18-year-old babysitting in her home in Germantown. Eight more women stalked and sexually attacked until the rape and murder of Christine Mirzayan, a 29-year-old intern with the National Academy of Sciences in 1998. Then silence. The Potomac River Rapist seemed to have eluded police. Until now. Supported by a SpotlightDC grant, veteran crime reporter Paul Wagner investigates how police employed cutting edge DNA technology to follow leads leading to the arrest of Giles Warrick, 62, in South Carolina in 2019. DC and Maryland police extradited him for trial scheduled in November. The result is explanatory journalism at its best: a seven-episode podcast launching October 4 on WTOP

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Recycling in DC Is A Myth – And It’s Going Down Hill

In hopes of aiding the environment, we separate trash our into bins: garbage and refuse in one; cardboard, newspaper, glass and plastic in another – and we feel better, expecting stuff in one bin destined for reuse, perhaps even wearing shoes one day re-manufactured from our plastic bottles. But an investigation funded by SpotlightDC shows that DC fails to recycle, from collection and separation to monitoring and enforcing rules.

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Dying in DC Heat Islands

DC’s poor reside in neighborhoods where temperatures can rise 20 degrees higher than more leafy, elite regions of the District. How much do they suffer in the heat islands?
Hola Cultura, a Latino-focused nonprofit, used maps supported by interviews and research to present a city divided not just by race and income but by climate that can affect health outcomes, education and crime. Its three-part series was published August 2021 by Washington City Paper.

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Murder In A Safe Place

Who Killed Sherry Crandell?
Threading together fresh evidence and interviews with family, detectives and DNA experts, veteran crime reporter Paul Wagner weaves a compelling narrative that drives his 8-part podcast about a nurse found dead in Prince Georges Hospital Center in 1998. WTOP presented Wagner’s podcast with Apple in its American Nightmare; the ninth segment might unveil the killer.

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Jury Suspension Strands DC Jail Defendants

The wheels of justice in DC’s Superior Court nearly ground to a halt during the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving defendants in jail without charges or recourse.
In a four-part series published by Capital Community News and Hill Rag April-June 2021, Gavrielle Jacobovitz investigated and examined how DC’s criminal justice system was adjusting – or failing to adjust – to pressures caused by the pandemic.

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SpotlightDC Launches with Publication of its First Funded Investigative Project: “Waste Mismanagement”

Why are sweetheart deals costing DC taxpayers millions in subsidies to big trash haulers?

It required months of digging into documents and FOIA requests for Cuneyt Dil to piece together the narrative of how private trash collectors were reaping millions a year in overpayments by the District’s DPW. Published in July 2020, the investigation showed that it cost the District more to process trash brought in by private haulers than they paid to dispose of it in “tipping fees.” His work forced DPW to raise fees and prompted oversight by the DC council.

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Facing Massive Evictions, DC Tenants At Mercy of Predatory System

Loopholes allowed landlords to throw tenants out without alerting them, in violation of basic legal rights and DC Council laws to protect tenants from unlawful eviction.

Digging into data, interviewing tenants, quoting advocates and attorneys, Josh Kaplan investigated and proved fraud in the system. DCist published the piece on October 5, 2020; the DC Council closed the loopholes the next day.

Kaplan’s piece is a Finalist for Livingston and Gerald Loeb Awards.

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DC Workers Suffering Under Flawed Workers Compensation System

On-the-job injuries often result in compensation for workers in the private sector, but DC workers have suffered for decades at the hands of a flawed system.

Rachel Cohen exposes how a two-track system for handling worker compensation claims puts people working for the DC government at a disadvantage compared to those in the private sector. Her reporting, published October 2020 in Washington City Paper, aired the unequal treatment just as the DC Council was considering reforms.

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