PublicI’s new name has a familiar ring to it

The story behind the digital rebranding of ICIJ’s parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity.

The Center for Public Integrity is, once again, The Center for Public Integrity. 

Actually, we always have been. But in April 2011, as part of a new business plan that included a top-to-bottom redesign of our website, we also gave ourselves a new digital address — www.iwatchnews.org — to go along with our new look.

In hindsight, we shouldn’t have done that. It sounded good at the time and looked good on paper, but it never fit quite right. And, frankly, it led to some confusion about who we are—which is and always has been The Center for Public Integrity, one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations. 

Granted, the name we were born with doesn’t sound like your typical journalistic organization. We never had words like “Times,” “Post,” or even “investigative news” in our name. But we’re not typical and we’re proud of it. Since former 60 Minutes producer Charles Lewis started The Center for Public Integrity from his home in 1989—when the first George Bush had just taken over the White House from Ronald Reagan and the Clintons were still living in Little Rock—we have published thousands of hard-hitting, in-depth stories that have appeared in thousands of print and online publications and TV and radio programs around the world. 

And we’ve had impact. Many of our investigations not only have won some of the most prestigious awards in journalism, they have also produced concrete results:

  • Just last year we helped spur the U.S. Department of Education to change rules on how colleges address sexual assault. 
  • Our reporting on the failed undercover gun program, “Fast and Furious” led to the reassignment of the acting director of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives department and the resignation of the Arizona U.S. attorney.
  • The ICIJ’s Looting the Seas series on global overfishing has helped tighten controls for the Atlantic blue fin tuna trade, started government investigations in Europe, and called attention to rampant over fishing of the lowly jack mackerel in the Southern Pacific.
  • And just a few weeks ago Federal regulators assembled a team of lawyers and experts to figure out how to bolster coal mine dust enforcement given the systemic weakness revealed by our investigation into the resurgence of black lung. 

As part of last year’s business plan, we broadened the scope of our reporting to include shorter accountability stories to complement our trademark long-form investigative reports. That will continue. In fact, with this name change, we are taking the best parts of that business plan and digital strategy, abandoning other parts, and moving forward. 

The best parts include the fact that our journalistic metabolism has changed forever through our iwatchnews efforts. We publish something new everyday, and we now are constantly interacting with communities on Twitter (as @ICIJorg and @PublicI), Facebook (for ICIJ and the Center), Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest. Our strategy for turning audience into financial supporters shows great promise. And we’ve built distribution partnerships with media outlets all over the world that ensures our most important information finds its way to the largest possible audience. 

But we’ve come to realize that changing our name was not a good idea. Iwatchnews was envisioned as a ‘publication’ of The Center for Public Integrity and one that would produce a half-dozen or more stories a day and become a destination for people seeking quick hits of investigative news, as well as our more in-depth projects. 

We now see that our website isn’t a product of The Center for Public Integrity—it IS The Center for Public Integrity. That’s why we have decided to reclaim our name and be known by a single identity. By returning to our given name we’re taking the confusion out of who we are and reaffirming what we stand for.

We will continue to do our work on a not-for-profit basis through grants from foundations and donations from individuals who share our passion for journalism that shines a light on the failures of institutions and people in positions of power to function in the public interest. We want to share that passion daily with you, and we think we can do that best as www.publicintegrity.org

That’s not a publication. It’s an institution. 

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