ProPublica announced today that senior reporter Charles Ornstein is moving to the newly created role of senior editor overseeing the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. The new initiative, designed to support accountability reporting at local and regional news organizations, will pay for a reporter to do investigative journalism at each of six news organizations in cities with a population below 1 million.
In his new role, Ornstein, who has covered health care and the pharmaceutical industry for ProPublica since 2008, will help oversee the reporters to guide and elevate the work. Working in collaboration with the reporters’ home newsrooms and within ProPublica, he will help execute stories in a variety of forms that may range from traditional newspaper features, to magazine and radio to TV pieces. Ornstein is also responsible for directing the vision and shape of the new endeavor. With 239 applications received from 45 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, the winning proposals will be announced in early December.
One of the nation’s preeminent health care reporters, Ornstein previously worked at the Los Angeles Times and the Dallas Morning News. His Los Angeles Times series exposing deadly medical problems and racial injustice at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center – co-reported with a team that included Tracy Weber, now also a ProPublica senior editor – won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, widely considered the highest honor in American journalism. Ornstein’s work at ProPublica has included projects on Big Pharma’s payments to doctors, gaping holes in the oversight of Medicare’s massive prescription drug program, widespread violations in patient privacy, as well as the health impacts of Agent Orange exposure and the failures of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to respond. His series on California’s shockingly poor oversight of nurses, co-reported for ProPublica with Weber, was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
“Again and again, Charlie has recognized new ways of doing investigative work, co-piloting some of our most powerful data and engagement reporting,” said ProPublica managing editor Robin Fields. “He has long been a leader in our newsroom – as a mentor, creative engine and exemplary colleague – and it’s possible that no reporter anywhere has done more to free health care data and harness it in the service of accountability journalism. All that makes Charlie ideally suited to oversee our Local Reporting Network, helping to revive investigative journalism in local newsrooms across America and to embody ProPublica’s mission and values in this work.”
Ornstein will transition into his new role over the next couple of months and will report to deputy managing editor Eric Umansky.