When Tom Casciato, executive producer of the PBS series EXPOSÉ, asked investigative reporters nationwide why they do what they do, he came back and declared: “You’re all optimists!”

Investigative reporters? Optimists? “This surprised me,” writes CIR Editorial Director Mark Schapiro in Nieman Reports:

His observation certainly offered a contrast with the public’s typical view of investigative journalists, who tend to rank somewhere between lawyers (another profession given an arguably bad rap) and repo men (who might deserve it)….

Upon reflection, however, his words started to seem like an accurate observation about the constellation of sometimes gruff, always driven journalists who pursue this line of work. They actually believe that bringing real information to the attention of the public might prompt change—in government policy, in the fate of politicians and government officials, in the behavior of corporations, in individuals or in entities with a link to power.

This, Schapiro points out, was one of the motives behind CIR’s collaboration with PBS station WNET to produce EXPOSÉ: America’s Investigative Reports. The show, now in its third season and airing monthly as part of Bill Moyers Journal, allows viewers to see what goes on behind-the-scenes with investigative reporters. The hope is that transparency will increase credibility and demonstrate the importance of investigative reporting at a time when many news organizations are downsizing—and the time-consuming (and therefore expensive) investigative reporting process is often the first to go.

The Web, Schapiro writes, is one of the best tools we have for creating transparency in reporting. CIR’s own Reporter’s Notebook, a series of essays by journalists about the backstory of their reporting, and the many source documents we provide online “provide readers not only with documentation that buttresses the reporting, but also with explanations of how our reporters used it.”

>> Read “Transparency Increases Credibility” by Mark Schapiro in Nieman Reports.

>> Check out the EXPOSÉ: America’s Investigative Reports website.