The year in accountability journalism



In 2012, the Center for Public Integrity's State Integrity project graded the openess and accountability of all 50 state governments, leading many to take up reform measures. The investigation found that state officials often make lofty promises when it comes to ethics and accountability, but these efforts frequently fall short of providing any real transparency or legitimate hope of rooting out corruption. The reporting made a difference. To date there has been movement for reform in 15 states, with certainly more to come once state legislatures convene in 2013. Three states have passed new laws; new laws have been proposed in an additional five states, and organized campaigns for reform have been launched in seven others.

The Center's report on harsh disciplinary practices in Los Angeles schools showed that thousands of police citations were being issued to children as young as 11 or 12-years-old for seemingly minor infractions. The reporting has helped spur a broad rethinking of punishment policies in the city’s largest school district.  Our “Separated by Law” investigation  revealed how a little understood 1996 immigration law was forcing immigrants pursuing an American dream to instead suffer an American nightmare —separating parents from their children for up to a decade at a time.

The Center's yearlong look at worker health and safety, "Hard Labor," exposed regulatory lapses by the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard. The series was launched with a story about a fatality investigation that was mishandled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Other stories examined the death of a UCLA lab worker, dangerous working conditions for U.S. fishermen, and Walmart's alleged involvement in wage theft at a warehouse in California.


How accountable is your state? Read the State Integrity Investigation, an unprecedented, data-driven analysis of transparency and accountability in all 50 state governments.

David Zalubowski/AP

Walmart trailers parked outside the Schneider Logistics warehouse in Mira Loma, Calif. Lawyers alleging wage theft from mostly immigrant Latino contract workers at the Southern California warehouse complex took steps to add Walmart as a defendant in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

Adithya Sambamurthy/Center For Investigative Reporting

As safety instructor Fred Mattera looks on, a fisherman jumps into the water in Narragansett, R.I., during a safety drill this month. The immersion training is intended to help curb casualties in the deadliest vocation in the United States, an industry beset by a high death rate and fragile federal net of protection.

Jesse Costa/WBUR

UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran and the UC Board of Regents face felony charges for the death of lab worker Sheri Sangji, a landmark worker safety case.

Adithya Sambamurthy/CIR

Elisa Xitco, 6, the daughter of U.S. citizen Chris Xitco, stands behind the iron gate protecting her home in Rosarito, Mexico, where she lives with her Mexican mother. Her mother has been barred from entering the U.S. at least until 2018  due to legislation that imposes harsh punishments on illegal immigrants who apply for legal status based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or some other tie.

Susan Ferriss

Students protest in Los Angeles against school police citations issued heavily at middle schools, low-income schools. 

Vanessa Romo/