In DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE, Ken Silverstein was an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times Investigative Unit in Washington, D.C. He worked with Chuck Neubauer and editor Deborah Nelson to uncover a corrupt lobbying trail that implicated Congressman Curt Weldon and his daughter Karen Weldon. Following a Justice Department and FBI investigation spurred by the Los Angeles Times story, Congressman Weldon was defeated in November 2006 for reelection. Silverstein is now a reporter for Harper's Magazine.
What story (or stories) have you worked on since filming wrapped on DEMOCRACY ON DEADLINE?
Numerous, especially since I've changed jobs (am now Washington editor of Harper's) and have started posting online investigative reports.
How did the story in the film turn out with the lobbying shop run by Karen Weldon?
It led to a still-ongoing investigation by the useless House Ethics Committee, otherwise known as the House Member Protection Committee. You can only be punished in Washington if you're as brazen and reckless as an Abramoff or a Cunningham.
What do you think of the present and future of independent journalism?
Journalism in general is in a tough phase and independent journalism is hardest of all because there aren't many people/organizations willing to fund and support it. (Luckily, there still are a few, in the "mainstream" media as well as the so-called alternative press.) The Web is, to use a cliché, changing everything and while there's a lot of junk in cyberspace there are definitely important Web sites that have become part of the dialogue. That's obviously going to increase as time goes by, and will surely play an important role in the future of journalism—independent or otherwise.
How has technology influenced your job?
Enormously. The Web hugely facilitates research (though it's important to stick with old techniques as well; there's no substitute for face-to-face interviews, which people too dependent on the Web tend to forget) and allows you to get stories out in a much faster manner, which offers advantages and dangers at the same time.
How do you find your stories?
One problem I never have is finding stories. I've been doing this long enough that I frequently get tips from a large network of sources. Between that, and coming up with stories on my own, there's always work to do.
Of all the stories you have covered, which has been most important, or the one you feel most proud of?
Probably stories that led to the investigations of Riggs Bank and American oil companies over their dealings with Equatorial Guinea. Also, a series on CIA intelligence collaboration with Sudan, Libya and Jordan.
Read more by and about Ken Silverstein and his work:
By Ken Silverstein and Daniel Burton-Rose
The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor
By Ken Silverstein
(Random House, 2004)
Read about the other journalists featured in the film >>