Sarah Childress to Lead FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Project

November 8, 2019

After joining FRONTLINE in 2012 following stints with The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, journalist Sarah Childress has helped to guide some of the iconic PBS series’ most complex and locally-rooted investigations — from a comprehensive examination of police reform in states across America, to a recent film that uncovered dozens of uncounted deaths during the Flint water crisis.

Now, FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath has announced that Childress is stepping into a newly created position with an even sharper focus on creating and supporting high-quality investigative journalism that originates at a local level.

As FRONTLINE Senior Editor and Director of Local Projects, Childress will lead the FRONTLINE Local Journalism Project — an initiative to bolster investigative journalism in cities and towns across America with $3 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and $1 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Sarah is the ideal candidate to lead our effort to support and strengthen local journalism in places where it is threatened,” says Aronson-Rath. “She is a remarkable talent who has in-depth experience as both a reporter and an editor, and who has played a key role in many of FRONTLINE’s most impactful investigations in recent years.”

The investigative teams selected to participate in the inaugural year of the FRONTLINE Local Journalism Project were announced this week. They will work closely with Childress, who has been a member of FRONTLINE’s senior editorial team since 2017.

“At FRONTLINE, we’re committed to robust investigative reporting,” Childress says. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to support more of that great work in local media.”

Childress originally joined FRONTLINE as a digital reporter, with a special focus on civil rights and criminal justice issues. She extensively covered allegations of child abuse at Spirit Lake reservation in North Dakota, military sexual assaults and suicides, and solitary confinement in America. Her interactive “Ballot Watch” reporting project tracked changes to voting rights in every state across the country. Another of her interactive projects, “Fixing the Force,” tracked the Department of Justice’s police reform efforts across the country, and inspired the award-winning FRONTLINE documentary Policing the Police.

Since joining FRONTLINE’s senior editorial team as a reporter and editor, Childress has helped to shape FRONTLINE’s investigative documentaries — from an examination of the rise of right-wing militias in America, to a look at the growth of violent white supremacist groups, to an investigation of the true scope of Flint’s water crisis.

Prior to joining FRONTLINE, Childress covered Iraq for Newsweek, sub-Saharan Africa for The Wall Street Journal and edited reporters in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America for GlobalPost. Her work has also been published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame.

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