Since 2010, 33 municipalities across the country have filed for bankruptcy. Not since the Great Depression have so many cities been so broke. No other place in the U.S. has borne the brunt more than the Central Valley city of Stockton, Calif. – the largest city in American history to file for bankruptcy. Now, the city has defaulted on its bond payments and stripped health care from retired police officers and firefighters. All the while, an unprecedented legal battle is raging between creditors and the city in federal bankruptcy court.

We dig deep into the financial ruin of Stockton. In the first documentary in a series of films produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting for The Young Turks, we look at the bad deals that brought this city to its knees.

YouTube video

Producer and Reporter: Chavala Madlena
Co-Producer and Editor: David Ritsher
Associate Producer and Camera: Sharon Pieczenik
Camera and Sound: Marc Alexander, Vanessa Carr, Roberto Daza, Ryan Loughlin
Narrator: Jayar Jackson
Senior Producer: Stephen Talbot
Executive Producer: Sharon Tiller
For TYT: Steven Oh, Chief Operating Officer
Additional footage provided by Monica Lam, Jeremy Roberts, 
Graphic Artist: David Ritsher
Additional editing by Linda Peckham
Production Assistants: Rachel de Leon, Jason Jaacks, Ryan Loughlin, Matthew Sarnecki
Archival images and footage provided by 360 Architects, Associate Press, BBC, Brandon Getty, Flickr, Getty Images, KQED, KVIE, Library of Congress, Michael Tubbs, R. Lewis Van Blois, Reuter, Shutterstock, Stockton City Council, Stockton Police, The Record, The White House, Times Tribune, William Maxwell and The Bank of Stockton
Courtroom art by Vicki Ellen Behringer
Music provided by Audio Network
Sound effects provided by

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Chavala Madlena is an investigative journalist and multimedia producer. Before joining The Center for Investigative Reporting, she was based at The Guardian’s investigative documentary unit, Guardian Films. Chavala has worked on stories ranging from death squads in Iraq to WikiLeaks, land grabbing in Africa, miscarriages of justice, al-Qaida, phone hacking and a joint BBC investigation into “vulture funds” that sue impoverished African nations for inflated amounts, a story that resulted in changes to legislation in the United Kingdom. Films she has worked on have won Webby, Edward R. Murrow and George Polk awards, and others have been nominated for Amnesty International, Rory Peck, One World Media and Commonwealth Broadcasting Association awards. Chavala has worked on stories for The Guardian, the BBC, The Centre for Investigative Journalism, Al-Jazeera, HBO, ProPublica, Current TV and MTV. She is a U.S. native but has worked in the U.K., Jerusalem, Moscow and Sydney.


Sharon Pieczenik is a senior associate producer for The Center for Investigative Reporting. Her passion lies in creating multimedia stories that are both entertaining and educational. She has interviewed and filmed people from a myriad of cultures, from the gauchos of Argentina to the inmates of Montana state prisons, from miners in Wyoming to conservationists in Madagascar. Before joining CIR, Sharon crafted multimedia strategies and deliverables for organizations like Polar Bears International, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural History Unit Africa and Montana PBS. Sharon studied international relations at Stanford University and received her master’s degree in science and natural history filmmaking from Montana State University.

David Ritsher is the senior editor for TV and documentaries for Reveal. He has produced and edited award-winning investigative documentaries for over 15 years, on subjects ranging from loose nukes in Russia to Latino gangs in Northern California. His work has appeared on FRONTLINE, PBS NewsHour, ABC News, National Geographic, Discovery, KQED and other national broadcast outlets. Before joining CIR, David was the coordinating producer for FRONTLINE/World for over six broadcast seasons and championed much of its experimentation with video on the web.