Lowell Bergman launched what has become the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) in 2006.
Bergman began his journalism career a half-century ago as an editor and investigative reporter with the alternative press. He then freelanced for Ramparts magazine before becoming an associate editor at Rolling Stone. In 1977, he co-founded the Center for Investigative Reporting and soon after joined ABC News. An original producer of its first news magazine, 20/20, he was responsible for the program’s first Emmy Award. After a stint as the executive in charge of investigative reporting at the network, in 1983 Bergman joined 60 Minutes as a producer/reporter for Mike Wallace. Over the next 14 years he produced scores of segments on organized crime, wrongful prosecutions, arms and drug trafficking, terrorism and corporate corruption. His 60 Minutes investigation of the tobacco industry was dramatized in the feature film, The Insider, which was nominated for seven Academy awards.
In 1998, Bergman forged a unique collaboration between The New York Times and PBS Frontline to co-report stories for print and broadcast with the participation of graduate students. He reported and produced stories on corruption in Mexico, the East Africa bombings, Enron’s role in the California energy crisis, the credit card business and a series on the roots of 9/11, as well as subsequent stories on the terrorist threat in the United States and Europe.
The New York Times received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for “A Dangerous Business,” a collaboration with PBS Frontline and Canadian Broadcasting’s Fifth Estate that included two journalism graduate students. The print series and the documentaries detailed a North American foundry company’s egregious worker safety and environmental violations and resulted in more than 100 felony charges nationwide. The print/broadcast versions received every major award in broadcasting and investigative reporting.
Multi-platform presentations of long-form investigative stories became an IRP innovation in the news industry. In more than 30 special reports, Bergman and the IRP have worked with a wide range of collaborators, from The Guardian to Univision and NPR to ProPublica, as well as a variety of local outlets.
Bergman has won numerous Emmys, seven Alfred I. duPont Awards, three Peabodys and many other awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award Grand Prize. In 2009, he was named one of the “30 most notable investigative reporters” in the last century by the George Washington University Encyclopedia of Journalism.
During the last few years, Bergman has turned his attention to a new journalism innovation. With IRP Director John Temple, he launched Investigative Studios, a nonprofit production company formally affiliated with the university. Studios is designed to produce new revenue streams for the IRP. It provides a vehicle to turn the IRP’s research and reporting into films and other long-form, multi-platform stories, and then distribute and monetize them. While still relying in part on philanthropy, the company’s goal is to bring to the world of documentary film the values of cutting-edge journalism.
Bergman graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966 and was a graduate fellow in the history of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego until 1970.
Bergman, a New York native, has lived in Berkeley since 1973. He is married to Sharon Tiller, herself an award-winning documentarian and broadcast executive. The couple has five sons and seven grandchildren.