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Amazon and IRP Inc. Join Forces

BY LOWELL BERGMAN

Anybody who’s familiar with my work knows that I’ve been looking to create a new model to support investigative journalism.

Today a number of steps have been announced that position us to do just that.

We’ve established this new nonprofit production company, Investigative Reporting Productions, Inc. The company was formed for the purpose of newsgathering, journalism education and media production in support of the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and its Investigative Reporting Program.

INC has an unprecedented first look deal with Amazon Prime Video. The agreement with the Unscripted and Original Movies teams at Amazon Prime Video is the first such agreement for the streaming service with a news organization.

The agreement is huge because it gives the work of the Investigative Reporting Program, which was founded in 2005, a development and distribution arm committed to benefiting the university, its Graduate School of Journalism and the IRP. And it means our work will be exposed to a global audience.

This agreement marks our company’s first step in becoming a viable, independent production company for documentary films based on investigative reporting.

We will be taking work researched and developed by staff and students at the IRP and producing it ourselves. In the past, our work was produced by private companies not affiliated with the university and all rights were ceded outright to broadcasters like Frontline, NBC and Univision. Now, our new production company will license the work to distributors on behalf of the university.

We have a number of projects we will be presenting Amazon in the near future. However the agreement does not preclude our new company from publishing with news organizations or broadcasters.

This new company, whose board I chair, will collaborate closely with the IRP. I will continue to teach at the IRP and serve as a member of its senior management. But now I will turn my focus to building this new company, and producing investigative reports that make a difference.

I am grateful to be joined in this effort by a board that includes a number of alumni of the Graduate School of Journalism.

Stay tuned.