Thank You for Believing in Journalism.
Dear FRONTLINE community,
As the year draws to a close, I’m writing to you with a message of thanks.
Your belief in investigative journalism is critical to sustaining our mission to hold the powerful accountable.
Thanks to your support, we produced more than 20 new documentaries this year, including wide-ranging coverage of issues at home and abroad — from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen to the promise and perils of artificial intelligence to the Trump administration’s handling of trade, immigration and the Supreme Court.
Our documentaries very often delivered real-world impact. Here are five vital examples:
- Our investigation into the hidden toll of the Flint water crisis found that approximately 70 deaths may have gone uncounted. After the film aired, two Michigan state lawmakers responded to the FRONTLINE investigation, including Rep. Sheldon Neely, who called for the state attorney general to take quick action to hold officials accountable. Additionally, state prosecutors began looking into FRONTLINE’s findings, including the heightened death toll. This month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she expected to make an announcement about prosecutions related to the water crisis in early 2020.
- In collaboration with NPR, we found that thousands of coal miners are dyingfrom an advanced form of black lung disease, and that federal regulators could have prevented it if they’d paid closer attention to their own data. Our joint investigation sparked calls for change, including from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the chair of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, who scheduled a congressional hearing on the epidemic of advanced black lung disease and the regulatory failures FRONTLINE and NPR uncovered.
- Working with The Wall Street Journal, we exposed the decades-long failure to stop a government pediatrician named Stanley Patrick Weber who sexually abused Native American boys, moving from reservation to reservation despite warnings. The day after our joint investigation published, the head of Health and Human Services called for a review of the Indian Health Service (IHS), the government agency that employed Weber for decades. The Trump administration later said that it would convene a task force to examine child sex abuse in the IHS. Since the film, we’ve co-published more than ten stories exposing additional problems within the IHS, including the revelation that Weber was still receiving a government pension — prompting a bill in Congress that would prevent convicted child molesters from receiving federal pensions.
- In partnership with ProPublica, we investigated what’s happened to New Yorkers with severe mental illnesses who won the chance to live independently in supported housing after a 2014 court order. We found more than two dozen cases in which the system failed — sometimes with deadly consequences. Our initial joint story prompted a judge to order an independent report involving the state’s supported housing program — and then, to order expanded oversight.
- Our documentary For Sama told the story of a young woman who kept her camera rolling in her home of Aleppo across five years of the brutal Syrian conflict — while falling in love, getting married, and becoming a mother as her city crumbled. The documentary (made with our partners at Channel 4, Channel 4 News, ITN, and PBS Distribution) has put a spotlight on the continued bombing of hospitals in Syria. It was cited in testimony before the United Nations Security Council about attacks on medical facilities and personnel in Syria, was screened at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, won the best documentary prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and recently received good news from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Over the past year, we also brought you fresh episodes of our original narrative podcast, published dozens of extended interviews with our sources as part of our commitment to journalistic transparency, and launched a new initiative to support investigative reporting in areas of the country where it is endangered.
Your support is a crucial part of what makes all of this work possible, and we do not take it for granted. As we head into the 2020 election year, we will work harder than ever to maintain the privilege of your trust and to bring you thoughtful journalism about issues that matter.
In fact, right now, we are in the process of producing America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump — a two-night, four-hour special premiering Jan. 13 and 14 on air and online that shows how the increasingly divisive politics over the past decade have led to this moment.
We are deeply grateful for the chance to bring you journalism that delivers impact, and that offers crucial context for our times. Thank you for your support.
– Raney Aronson-Rath
FRONTLINE Executive Producer