The Center for Investigative Reporting has recruited a diverse team of 11 reporters, multimedia producers and editors to produce investigative, high impact reporting for its new California Watch initiative.

“This dynamic and accomplished group of journalists will drive our latest entrepreneurial venture and focus on solutions to improve the quality of life in the state,” said CIR Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal.

California Watch is being launched at a time when the state is confronting one of the worst budget crises in its history, the recession is inflicting pain and hardship on millions of Californians, and the need for oversight is greater than ever.

More than 700 journalists applied for a range of positions with California Watch, an indication of the depth of talent available to cover underreported California stories.

“We have built one of the largest investigative teams in the state at a critical time,” said Editorial Director Mark Katches, a native Californian and an award-winning investigative reporter and editor. “We will focus on delivering stories that shape the debate and prompt change.”

The California Watch team collectively brings extensive experience covering the state and exceptional multimedia and data analysis skills:

AGUSTIN ARMENDARIZ – DATA ANALYST AND REPORTER: Armendariz worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune where he was a database specialist on the watchdog reporting team. He previously worked at the Center for Public Integrity as a database developer and researcher, where he helped produce investigative projects such as Party Lines, an in-depth look at who pulls the political strings in all 50 states. Armendariz also was a contributor to The Buying of the President 2004, a New York Times bestseller. He earned his M.A. in journalism from American University.

CHASE DAVIS – MONEY AND POLITICS REPORTER: Davis previously worked at the Des Moines Register, where he recently wrote about how weak standards and deception hurt Iowa’s ability to monitor air pollution. Before that, he worked as an investigative reporter at the Houston Chronicle, where he uncovered waste and fraud within NASA and exposed glaring ethics issues within the nation’s third-largest county government. Davis is a partner in the media-technology firm Hot Type Consulting. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

CHRISTINA JEWETT – HEALTH AND WELFARE REPORTER: Jewett worked at ProPublica, where she wrote about a chain of psychiatric hospitals plagued by substandard care and about the FDA’s failures to regulate medical-device safety. Her stories for ProPublica have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. A native of Indiana, Jewett previously worked at the Sacramento Bee. Her reporting on criminal justice has been honored with awards from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. She graduated from Indiana University.

COREY G. JOHNSON – K-12 EDUCATION REPORTER: Johnson was a reporter at the Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina where he covered higher education and criminal justice issues. A native of Atlanta, Johnson has exposed secrecy, mismanagement, corruption and abuse of power inside governmental, university and police organizations. He is a graduate of Florida A&M University.

MARK S. LUCKIE – MULTIMEDIA PRODUCER: Luckie has worked as a multimedia producer for the Los Angeles Times, the Contra Costa Times and Entertainment Weekly. He is a former crime and justice reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Mark also is the author of 10,000 Words, a multimedia blog dedicated to digital media trends. Luckie graduated from Bethune-Cookman College in Florida and earned his M.A. from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

ERICA PEREZ – HIGHER EDUCATION REPORTER: Perez was a reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where she covered the University of Wisconsin system, the Wisconsin Technical College system and private colleges. A California native, she previously covered K-12 education for the Orange County Register. Before earning her M.A. in journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication, Perez taught high school English for two years. She graduated from Stanford University.

LISA PICKOFF-WHITE – MULTIMEDIA PRODUCER: Pickoff-White has been a print, multimedia and radio reporter in the Bay Area and Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, National Journal, KALX, San Francisco Bay Guardian and UPI. She recently graduated from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with an emphasis in new media and was a 2009 Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow, one of a team of talented journalists from top journalism schools who collaborate to produce innovative journalism on the Web.

LANCE WILLIAMS – MONEY AND POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Williams was an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he helped break many of the newspaper’s exclusive stories on the BALCO steroid scandal. With Mark Fainaru-Wada, he wrote Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports. He has been a reporter in California for 34 years. He has won the George Polk Award, the Scripps Howard First Amendment Award and the Gerald Loeb Award, among other honors. Williams graduated from Brown University and earned his M.A. from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining the Chronicle, he worked at the San Francisco Examiner, the Oakland Tribune and the Hayward Daily Review.

ROBERT SALLADAY – SPECIAL ADVISER AND CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Salladay has covered California politics and government for more than a decade, including most recently as a reporter and blogger for the Los Angeles Times. His coverage has included the 2000 presidential recount, the California recall election, the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and numerous analytical and investigative pieces about the state. A California native and graduate of UC Berkeley, he received a M.S. from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and began his career as a reporter for the Fremont Argus, followed by the Oakland Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. While at the Times, he wrote the successful Political Muscle blog.

The team reports to California Watch Editorial Director Mark Katches, who is working in tandem with California Watch Director Louis Freedberg and CIR Executive Director Robert Rosenthal.

California Watch is a response to the diminished capacity of newsrooms in the state to cover critically important issues affecting all Californians. These include the state of our public schools and community colleges, the impact of budget cuts on the health and welfare of individuals and communities, and the influence of money on politics. Other beats will be added within the coming year.

“Working collaboratively with news organizations around the state, our reporting team will help Californians become engaged and participate more fully in the democratic process,” said California Watch Director Louis Freedberg.

A project of the 32-year-old Center for Investigative Reporting, California Watch represents a significant step in the growth of non-profit regional and state-focused journalism. It is underwritten by grants from The James Irvine Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

For more information please visit http://centerforinvestigativereporting.org/projects/californiawatch/.