Posted: July 2, 2014 | Tags: 60 Minutes
Matt Taylor photography
Chuck Lewis speaks about his new book, "935 Lies," at the National Press Club, where the Center for Public Integrity also celebrated its 25th year.
Executive Editor Charles Lewis celebrated the release of his new book, "935 Lies," at the National Press Club last week, an event hosted by the Center for Public Integrity, which Lewis founded 25 years ago.
"935 Lies" looks into public officials' statements that were later proved untrue. Over the past nine years, Lewis worked with a group of researchers to produce the work, a mix of history and journalism, and which advocates for investigative stories and an informed public. Lewis draws on historical details in an effort to expose the fraudulent actions — and long-term impact — of prominent politicians, as well as the journalists who did not question them.
"The truth seeps out eventually," Lewis said recently during an informal lunch with Workshop interns, although he added that the leak is often years or even decades after the deceit took place. He encouraged young journalists to study the book's citations. He is especially excited by the notes, appendix and real-time truth charts he and others researched and created for the book. These outline the morality, consequences and deceptions over the years. These range from the risks of lead-paint poisoning to the abuse and delayed recognition of the Tuskegee syphilis study and the Iran Contra Scandal.
Lewis remains an optimist about journalism while continuing to lament that Washington reporters can become enamored of their beats and the people in power whom they cover. Lewis discussed the importance of his academic colleagues who are not necessarily recognized as journalists but whose writing and expertise in various fields is valuable to the public. He also drew on his experience working with major networks and then leaving to create the center.
"We'll always have a commercial media," Lewis said. "I just don't want a private media."
Apart from talking about his book and career, he gave the aspiring journalists some advice, namely to follow their passions despite discouragement from others or concerns about the industry remaining in an ever-longer transition from print to digital.
"Zig when others zag," Lewis told them. Years later, it is exactly this practice that made him a pioneer in nonprofit investigative journalism.