A healthy democracy is impossible without rigorous journalism that uncovers the truth — and puts it into context so the public can make informed decisions.
WhoWhatWhy is a global nonprofit news organization committed to reporting without corporate pressure, political agenda, or a pack mentality. Our work involves digging deep for meaningful answers — with responsible fearlessness.
We identify the players, evaluate the facts, and reveal the often surprising context and hidden consequences of critical issues that are underreported, overlooked, or misrepresented.
- We have a reputation for “first responder” journalism, focusing substantive attention on issues that matter most — especially those that affect our democratic process, from fake allegations of voter fraud to aggressive redistricting measures to the current wave of violent extremism.
- Our reporting is noted by a diverse range of outlets, from major brand news outfits, such as the Associated Press, The Washington Post, NBC, ProPublica, and The Wall Street Journal, to independent and niche entities, advocacy organizations, and academics.
- Our long-running weekly podcast features a famously astute host introducing new voices and perspectives to the public while surprising our guests — including Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, renowned scholars, scientists, elected officials, and fascinating newcomers to the public eye — with fresh questions about the pressing topics of our times.
WhoWhatWhy’s CEO and founder Russ Baker is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, and publisher. He started WhoWhatWhy to provide trustworthy journalism that informs and deepens our understanding of our world. Russ has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Esquire, Vanity Fair, and The Village Voice. Over several decades, he broke many significant stories, including those that raised early doubts about the justification for the war with Iraq; exposed the UN’s failure to pursue war criminals in former Yugoslavia; laid bare corruption in the New York City police union; and documented predatory practices in the credit card industry. He is the author of the bestselling dynastic history of the Bush clan Family of Secrets.
WhoWhatWhy is the operating unit of Real News Project, Inc, a nonprofit organization composed of veteran reporters, newly minted journalists, and experts from many fields. Our unique model of relying on a mix of paid journalists and skilled volunteers allows us to do more with modest resources, ensuring that every donation goes as far as possible — and protects our integrity and our values. Among our 200+ members are:
- Award-winning reporters from print, broadcast, and digital media, with a history of producing insightful, original work.
- Young journalists developing investigative skills through our Mentor/Apprentice Program
- Senior executives, many from well-known companies, contributing their expertise in technology, marketing, operations, and development — all bound by a common desire to produce reliable, consequential information that enables us all to be effective citizens in our democracy.
We are funded solely by individual donors and charitable foundations.
Board of Directors
Our Board and Advisory Council are composed of renowned journalists, leading academics, and notable philanthropists.
is Founder, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief, WhoWhatWhy.
is a philanthropist, businessman, and musician. He was a partner in the Empire State Building, owns the legendary Dreamland Recording studio, and has seeded many innovative social ventures.
Jonathan Z. Larsen
served as a Time magazine editor and correspondent (Saigon bureau chief), and editor of New Times magazine and The Village Voice. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Jon has served as a board member of Cambridge College and Sterling College.
Laurie Michaels, Ph.D., is a psychologist and individual philanthropist based in Aspen, CO. She has founded two philanthropic organizations. For 10 years, OpenRoad Alliance has provided fast, flexible, and affordable funding to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs facing unforeseen financing gaps that threaten their impact. Her most recent venture, The 2030 Fund, focuses on addressing the harmful effects of pollution in Cancer Alley between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Dr. Michaels currently serves as board member for the peace-building organization Search for Common Ground.
Kathleen Rivera has had a long career in nonprofit management and development. Currently chief development officer at The Child Center of NY, she previously served in executive positions with a wide range of nonprofits, including Brooklyn Community Housing & Services, CARE USA, Children’s Rights, and International Planned Parenthood Federation. She attended Brandeis University and received her Bachelor’s Degree at City University of New York-Brooklyn College.
is New York legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He previously served as New York City commissioner of consumer affairs and public affairs director of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
Irena Choi Stern
most recently served as director of alumni services for the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She also served as a communications consultant for What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps local governments improve residents’ lives by using data and evidence effectively to tackle pressing challenges. Prior to that, Irena worked at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for more than a decade, most recently as assistant dean and director of alumni relations. In her role, Irena served as the primary contact for more than 12,000 graduates. Irena is herself a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school – as are both of her children.
is a longtime local New York television news anchor and winner of three Emmy Awards.
Steve Kelem (emeritus)
is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur; he co-founded a start-up to make a next-generation programmable silicon chip. A Ph.D., MS, and BS in Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles, he holds 32 patents in integrated circuit design and computer-aided design methods. Had a critical role in shaping DARPAnet, a key predecessor of the internet. Founder of California’s top-ranked charter school. Special interest in election integrity and the investigation of electronic voting machine fraud.
Richard Foos (emeritus)
founded the iconic Rhino Records, and is a longtime media and music entrepreneur. He is deeply involved with youth education and opportunity programs.
Virginia McGuire (emeritus)
is an expert on affordable housing and student loan policy. She served on the staff of the US House Banking and Finance Committee, and on the board or advisory committees for organizations including Fannie Mae, Dallas Affordable Housing Coalition, the Congressional Federal Credit Union, Volunteers of America, and Global Camps Africa.
Editorial Advisory Council
(San Francisco) teaches science at The University of California Graduate School of Journalism. Former publisher and editor of Mother Jones magazine, Dowie has written over 200 investigative reports for magazines, newspapers, and other publications. Author of five books and recipient of 18 journalism awards, including four National Magazine Awards.
(Washington, DC) is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, an investigative history of US policy toward political Islam. He has contributed features, profiles, and investigative stories in the areas of politics and national security to Rolling Stone, The Nation, Mother Jones, and The American Prospect.
(San Francisco) is a pioneering whistleblower. A former Defense and State Department official, his unauthorized release to the Senate, and later to the media, of a top-secret study of US decision-making in Vietnam exposed massive deceptions by the government; contributed to the end of the war; and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. He is the author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
(Washington, DC) has served as president of the Alicia Patterson Foundation; managing editor of the Newseum in Washington, DC; Nieman Fellow, Harvard University; board member of the Fund for Investigative Journalism; staff reporter for The Washington Post, the Des Moines Register, and the Lorain Journal.
(San Francisco) is the author of numerous books on such topics as the environment, the media, and America’s image in the world. He has contributed to The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, The Guardian, and The Nation, and served as a commentator for the national radio program Marketplace.
(Seattle) is director of the Communication Leadership graduate program at the University of Washington. As a former NBC News war correspondent and investigative producer, he’s the recipient of Overseas Press Club and Emmy awards.
Frances Moore Lappé
(Boston) is author of Diet for a Small Planet and 14 other books, including Democracy’s Edge. She is a co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (also known as Food First), and the American News Service.
Robert W. McChesney
(Urbana-Champaign, IL) is an emeritus research professor at the Institute of Communications Research (ICR) at the University of Illinois. He is co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization.
(New York), also known as “DJ Spooky,” Miller is a leading postmodern artist, musician, and best-selling author. His art fuses disparate cultures and styles to evoke — and subvert — political realities. He has hosted exhibits at museums and biennials around the world, performed at venues from the Tate Modern to the Guggenheim Museum, and collaborated with artists from Chuck D to Yoko Ono.
(Washington, DC), was an investigative reporter at The Washington Post for decades including the Watergate era. He has served as chair of the Fund for Investigative Journalism and as a senior adviser to the Harvard-based journalism website Nieman Watchdog.
James C. Moore
(Austin, TX) is an Emmy-winning former television news correspondent and co-author of the bestselling Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. His second book, Bush’s War for Reelection, included his groundbreaking 10-year investigation into the president’s National Guard record. He has been writing and reporting from Texas for the past 25 years on the rise of Rove and Bush, and has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.
Alvin H. Perlmutter
(New York) is a documentary maker whose television programs have aired on PBS, commercial networks, and cable, and have been broadcast globally. Perlmutter previously served as NBC News vice president, where he was responsible for all network documentaries and news magazine programs. Perlmutter has received numerous awards including six Emmys for The Great American Dream Machine, Adam Smith’s Money World, and Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (with Bill Moyers).
(San Francisco, CA) is a pioneer of online journalism. A former senior editor at Mother Jones magazine and features editor for the San Francisco Examiner, he was founder and editor-in-chief of Salon, one of the earliest and most important web magazines. He is the author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government.
(Columbia, MO) has served as a professor at the University of Missouri Journalism School, newspaper and magazine staff writer and book reviewer, and as executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), a 5,000-member organization.
Patricia J. Williams
(New York) is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University. She has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and legal theory. Books include The Alchemy of Race and Rights; The Rooster’s Egg; and Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race. In addition, Williams has been a columnist at The Nation, a MacArthur Fellow, and a member of the Board of Trustees at Wellesley College.
WhoWhatWhy Ethics & Practices Policies
Annual Report on Form 990, 2020 (PDF)