Following its ground-breaking reporting on DC’s Heat Islands, Hola Cultura used a SpotlightDC award to create a multi-part podcast giving voice to DC residents surviving in the District’s hottest communities. Aired August 2022 by WTOP and WAMU.
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.
Washington, DC—SpotlightDC: Capital City Fund for Investigative Journalism is the Washington region’s only nonprofit dedicated to funding local investigative news. It launched July 2020 with publication by Washington City Paper of Cuneyt Dil’s investigation of malfeasance in the District’s trash collection system that cost D.C. taxpayers nearly $54 million in the past decade.
“It’s a new day for investigative journalism in the Washington region,” said co-founder Colbert I. “Colby” King, chairman of SpotlightDC’s Board of Directors and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post. “We have a clear mission—to fund the work of reporters whose projects can hold the powerful to account and shed light on matters from misspent government funds to injustices in our legal system to failures in our education and health-care systems.”
SpotlightDC: Capital City Fund for Investigative Journalism is a charitable organization under IRS code 501(c)(3). It took shape in 2019 to raise funds, seek proposals for investigative or explanatory journalism on subjects in the national capital region and award funds to worthy projects by independent journalists or staff writers with news organizations.
“Public interest journalism and watchdog reporting have suffered in recent years—especially when it comes to local matters,” said board member Kojo Nnamdi, host of WAMU’s eponymous daily talk show on the DC region and Friday’s Politics Hour. “The need for deep reporting that exposes wrongdoing is more urgent than ever.”
SpotlightDC funds impactful investigative projects that are published by one of its media partners. They include: WAMU, DCist, NBC4, Washingtonian, Washington Blade, The Washington Informer, Greater Greater Washington, DCLine, Capital Community News, and Washington City Paper.
“The national press corps reports on federal Washington, national and international matters,” said board member Margaret “Peggy” Engel, Executive Director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. “Who’s watching the District government’s budget as it nears $17 billion? Or pay-to-play politics in the DC Council? Or use of force in the DC police? Or inequities in health care? Those are the projects SpotlightDC hopes to fund.”
Advisory Board members make recommendations about proposals to the Executive Board. The members are Pulitzer Prize-winner and author Katherine Boo; veteran DC reporter and Merrill School Professor Mark Feldstein; Pulitzer Prize finalist Keith Harriston; Mike Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent with Yahoo News; Mark Lee, contributing columnist with the Washington Blade; Charles Lewis, founder of Center for Public Integrity and founder/executive editor for American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop; Stephanie Mencimer, investigative reporter with Mother Jones; Dana Louise Priest, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner at the Washington Post and professor at Merrill School of Journalism; Tom Sherwood, DC reporter for the Washington Post and NBC4, guest analyst for WAMU’s weekly Politics Hour; Cheryl Thompson, investigative correspondent with NPR and president of IRE; Del Weber, enterprise and investigative reporter with the LA Times, and Chris Wilson, director of data journalism with Time.
“We want to encourage reporters to submit projects of important public interest throughout the region,” says co-founder and SpotlightDC President Harry Jaffe. “We are on a mission to revive and promote local investigative reporting when it’s more essential than ever.”