Awards & Honors

Founding Director
Florence George Graves

Common Cause Magazine 
with Founding Editor
Florence George Graves 

  • National Magazine Award for General Excellence
  • Clarion Award for General Excellence
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) awards
  • Sidney Hillman Foundation Award
  • Overseas Press Club Citation for Excellence
  • Washington Monthly reporting awards. 

Florence George Graves

Fellowships & Research Awards
Investigative Highlights
Public Speaking
Other Affiliations
Selected Articles  

Florence George Graves is the founding director of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, where she is creating a core staff of journalists to conduct major investigative projects while involving students in in-depth reporting. Since 1996 she has been a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. As an award-winning investigative reporter and magazine editor, she has focused largely on investigating and exposing political, government, and corporate abuses of power, particularly in Washington. Her work has led to a number of congressional hearings and government probes and to several reforms in public policies. 

She was the lead reporter in a collaboration between the Institute and The Washington Post, which was published on April 17, 2006, on page A1 above the fold. The investigation revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had failed to probe allegations—as federal regulations required—that thousands of unapproved parts manufactured from 1994 to 2002 were installed on Boeing jets. In an earlier collaboration with the The Washington Post in 1992, Graves and a colleague broke the story exposing sexual misconduct allegations about Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon. She was the founding editor for the national political and investigative journal, Common Cause Magazine, based in Washington, D.C. Her work has been recognized by numerous national awards, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her reporting. She also received the highest award given in magazine journalism, the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, which honors the editing and overall presentation, content, and design of a magazine. Washingtonian Magazine named her as one of its "people to watch."

In academia, Graves served as an associate professorial lecturer for six years at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she taught students how to create and edit magazines. 

Fellowships and research awards

Her research and reporting have been honored by appointments as an Alicia Patterson Foundation Journalism Fellow, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a two-year fellowship at Harvard’s Radcliffe Public Policy Institute. To further her work, she also received the Pope Foundation Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting, two Goldsmith Research Awards from Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, and several research awards from the Fund for Investigative Journalism in Washington, D.C.

Investigative highlights

Broke Senator Bob Packwood sexual misconduct story

Packwood Sexual Misconduct  Her 1992-93 Washington Post exposés of sexual misconduct allegations against Senator Bob Packwood (with Charles E. Shepard) led to widespread news coverage (from The New York Times, 60 Minutes, and 20/20 to Jay Leno), an increased national discussion about sexual misconduct in the workplace, and a historic three-year Senate investigation that resulted
in his forced resignation from the United States Senate after the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to expel him.

The story itself, and the responses it garnered, set a number of precedents: The first time more than one woman had gone on the record with such complaints against a United States senator; the first time the Senate Ethics Committee had investigated allegations of sexual misconduct; the first time the Committee had voted to expel a senator; and a historic Supreme Court case (won by the Senate) over the privacy of a senator's diary entries considered relevant to the Senate investigation. 

Packwood was charged by the Ethics Committee with altering important evidence (his diary entries), obstructing justice, linking personal financial gain to his official position, and engaging in what committee chair Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) described as “a habitual pattern of aggressive, blatantly sexual advances” involving the more than twenty women who agreed to cooperate with the Senate probe.

The story also contributed to demands that Congress be covered by the same employment laws, including those against sexual harassment, as the rest of the country. In 1995 the Senate passed the historic Government Accountability Act, making members of Congress more accountable in these and other employment matters. ("Packwood Accused of Sexual Advances," The Washington Post, November 22, 1992; 6.7MB PDF)

Exposed Clinton accuser Kathleen Willey’s lack of credibility in the Lewinsky matter

 Starr & Willey

Graves’s 1999 year-long Nation magazine investigation revealed that Kathleen Willey, who accused President Clinton of sexual harassment, was in fact seeking an affair with the president, and that Willey had lied to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s

own investigators, a fact that Starr tried to keep secret.

The article was based in part on information in hundreds of sealed Independent Counsel documents to which Graves obtained access. The article also revealed that not long before President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, Starr gave Willey—presumed to be a key witness against the president—an extraordinary second immunity from prosecution agreement after discovering she had lied during the independent counsel investigation about an affair of her own that became relevant during the investigation. Willey had lied when she denied to prosecutors that she had once tricked a boyfriend by telling him (falsely) that she was pregnant with his twins and insisting he must accompany her to an abortion clinic.

The article uncovered other major new evidence that raised questions about Starr’s decisions to rely on Willey and to indict Julie Hiatt Steele, Willey’s former friend who refused to help corroborate Willey’s claims. Steele was the only person indicted in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, apparently because she undercut the credibility of Willey, a witness Starr reportedly hoped to use to indict President Clinton.

Steele's trial ended with a hung jury and Starr decided not to re-try her. Both resulted in part, according to Steele's attorney, from Graves's article, which gave the most detailed account of the questions about Willey. The Boston Globe wrote that Graves “helped hand Starr his hat on the only indictment in the Lewinsky matter.” The March 2002 final report of the Independent Counsel (written after Starr resigned) confirmed that prosecutors knew Willey had credibility problems.

Resolved mystery surrounding woman standing by to testify in Thomas-Hill hearings

Angela Wright 

Another of Graves’s investigations, published in 1994 in The Washington Post, revealed for the first time the intricate—and bipartisan—behind-the-scenes maneuvering by several Senate Judiciary Committee members to discourage the testimony of Angela Wright, a woman whose information could have helped corroborate Anita Hill's allegations against Clarence Thomas.

Based on months of research and more than 100 interviews, the article helped resolve one of the most enduring mysteries left by the hearings: What happened to the “other woman” who had been subpoenaed by the committee but never called to testify about the Supreme Court nominee? The article uncovered a surprising unwritten agreement among top Republicans and Democrats not to call Wright, apparently because they feared either that her testimony would create even greater political chaos or that it would doom Thomas’ nomination. Several senators including Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and other key players told Graves they believed that if Wright had testified, Thomas would not have been confirmed. The article received the Texas Institute of Letters Award for best newspaper article published in 1994. ("The Other Woman," The Washington Post Sunday Style, October 9, 1994; 8MB PDF)

Exposed Kenneth Starr’s undermining of the First Amendment

 Is Ken Starr undermining the First Amendment?

Graves’s 1998 American Journalism Review cover story, “Is Kenneth Starr Undermining the First Amendment?”—based in part on sealed court documents she obtained—revealed how Independent Counsel Starr had taken the highly unorthodox step of subpoenaing journalists to testify or to provide their own notes or documents as part of his efforts 

to extend his investigative reach in the President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky controversy.

Starr’s actions may have violated the independent counsel law. Specific longstanding Justice Department guidelines say that before subpoenaing a journalist, a federal prosecutor must first use all other reasonable means to get the same information from other sources; Starr had not done so. These guidelines had been created to strongly discourage prosecutors from undermining the role of the press as a check on the government, thereby interfering with the constitutionally protected First Amendment. Starr’s subpoenas effectively tried to make journalists “arms of the government.” 

After the story was published, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who helped write the law, asked the Congressional Research Service to conduct a legal analysis, and asked Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the serious issues raised by the piece. Graves's follow-up article for The Washington Post, “Is This What Congress Intended?”, explored in more depth whether the Starr subpoenas were an abuse of power. Anthony Lewis’ New York Times column cited her findings to support his conclusion that Starr’s tactics were “close to the edge” ethically and legally. After her story was published, publicized, and followed up in such venues as a New York Times front page article, Starr stopped subpoenaing journalists.

Founded award-winning political and investigative magazine

 Common Cause Magazine
These stories built on a foundation of national political reporting that Graves had begun in the 1980s, when she created and launched Common Cause Magazine (CCM). The magazine became the largest circulation political magazine in the country (250,000), and the only one whose primary focus was investigative reporting. During its first seven years, under her direction, the magazine broke stories of government and corporate mismanagement and malfeasance, resulting in almost a dozen congressional hearings and several changes in federal policies.

The magazine’s articles, which exposed corruption and blew the whistle on fraud and abuse, were picked up by the country's major newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as such television news programs as 60 Minutes and 20/20. When he was a CNN correspondent, journalist Brooks Jackson described it as “one of the premier muckraking magazines of our time.” A 2003 article in Folio magazine said, “If Common Cause Magazine threw a reunion, it would look like a convention of today’s top investigative reporters. With a brand of muckraking that belonged more to the era of Ida Tarbell than of Rupert Murdoch, the magazine attracted and nurtured journalists who had a zeal for exposing the abuses of the powerful.”

Magazine won major awards

During her tenure as editor-in-chief and vice-president for publications, the magazine and its writers won more than a dozen national editorial, reporting, and design awards, topped by the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, but also including the Clarion Award for General Excellence, several Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) awards, the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award, the Overseas Press Club Citation for Excellence, and two Washington Monthly reporting awards. 

The judges of the National Magazine Award selected Common Cause Magazine for its reporting, editing, and execution. The magazine won in its category of all U.S. magazines with circulations of 100,000 to 400,000, over such more established and far better-financed publications as finalists Texas Monthly and American Heritage. The judges described it as “a political magazine distinguished by its muckraking journalism,” and saluted the mix of articles that included “humor, interviews, and other enterprising reports.”

Stories in Common Cause Magazine documented how an ousted congressman avoided paying back money he admitted taking from the federal government in a kickback scheme; how members of Congress were taking luxurious vacations paid for by lobbyists, under the guise of fact-finding trips; ways in which corporate and union political action committees were using a loophole in campaign finance laws to pour millions of dollars (which later became well known as “soft money”) into Democratic and Republican party campaigns; and how Pentagon contractors were improperly charging taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying and public relations expenses.

While editing the magazine, Graves wrote a number of investigative articles. Results of her work have been widely reported in the press; major newspapers covered many of her investigations' findings as breaking news. Some findings were used as evidence in congressional hearings, while others led to changes in government policies. She received the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for an article showing flaws in the government approval process for the artificial sweetener NutraSweet. The 20-page NutraSweet investigation, which was released at a national press conference in Washington, led to extensive media coverage, congressional hearings, and a government probe.

At a time when the Pentagon budget was soaring, a Graves' investigation revealed that Pentagon contractors were charging taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for their public relations expenses. Her investigation resulted in a congressional hearing, a General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation, and numerous editorials condemning the practice. Three of Graves’s Pentagon-related probes resulted in specific reforms enacted by Republican Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

Another Graves article blew the whistle on a special tax break worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a small group of commodity traders. The special-interest tax deduction had been quietly attached by Senator Bob Dole to the fine print of a major bill; after Graves's article brought it widespread publicity, the deduction was significantly reduced.

Public speaking

Graves has been interviewed often on television and radio and made presentations at numerous seminars, conferences and universities on topics such as ethical questions reporters face when covering the “private” lives of public figures; gender dynamics in Washington; how to do investigative reporting; and how to edit, position, and reposition a magazine. She has spoken to groups such as the American Booksellers Association, the Magazine Publishers Association, the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Radcliffe College Seminars, Radcliffe Public Policy Institute, Brandeis University, Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, the University of Missouri, Boston College, Boston University, the University of Arizona (Tucson), Investigative Reporters and Editors conferences, and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. She has been interviewed or given commentary on television programs such as NBC’s "Meet the Press," "NBC Nightly News," CNBC’s "The Tim Russert Show," "CNN," "Donahue," Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," and "Geraldo." She also has appeared on numerous radio shows on ABC, Pacifica, and NPR, including "All Things Considered," "The Connection," and "On Point."

Other affiliations

In addition to her academic fellowships at Brandeis, Harvard, and Radcliffe and her teaching at The George Washington University, Ms. Graves served for many years on the editorial advisory board of the Radcliffe Quarterly. She is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS). She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where she was editorial page editor of The Daily Texan. She holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Arizona, where she was a reporter for El Independent, a bilingual newspaper serving the small, largely Hispanic city of South Tucson.

Selected articles by Florence George Graves

"Watchdog Reporting: Exploring Its Myth", Florence George Graves, Institute Founding Director, Nieman Reports, Spring 2008.

"First Things First," by Florence Graves and Hadar Sayfan, The Boston Globe, June 24, 2007.

"Boeing Parts and Rules Bent, Whistle-Blowers Say," by Florence Graves and Sara Kehaulani Goo, Washington Post, April 17, 2006.

"What We Investigate Is Linked to Who We Are," Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2003.

"Anita Hill: The Rest of the Story," Boston Globe Magazine, January 19, 2003; (12MB).

"The Real David Brock?" The Women's Review of Books, May 2002.

"Redefining the 'Private Lives' of Public Officials," Nieman Reports, Spring 2002.

"Starr and Willey: The Untold Story," The Nation, May 17, 1999.

"Starr Struck," American Journalism Review, April 1998.

"Going Public About Packwood: Why His Abuses Were a Fair Pursuit for the Press," The Washington Post Outlook section, September 10, 1995.

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