Paul Cheung named CEO of Center for Public Integrity

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Paul Cheung, a veteran journalist and leading advocate for innovative change in media, has been named chief executive officer of the Center for Public Integrity.

He’ll lead one of the nation’s oldest nonprofit investigative news organizations as it builds the leading source of journalism focused on the causes and effects of inequality in America.

Cheung joins Public Integrity from the Knight Foundation, where for the past three-years, he managed a multi-million dollar investment portfolio to scale AI, improve business sustainability, and mitigate misinformation as the director of journalism and technology innovation. Previously, he led cross functional teams of journalists, technologists, data-scientists and interactive producers at NBC, The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and Miami Herald.

“As an immigrant, I have experienced both the pitfalls and promises of America. I know first-hand the real-life impacts of systems in place that have long created inequity, and I am dedicated to making them more equitable through groundbreaking and innovative investigative journalism,” Cheung said. “When established systems of inequity are in effect, people who look, sound and behave differently, like me, are not treated as equals and denied the opportunities to succeed. When we remove barriers that keep us down, only then can America truly live up to its promise of being the land of opportunity for all. I believe the Center for Public Integrity’s mission is more vital than ever.”

Jim Kiernan, chair of the Board of Public Integrity, said: “After an extensive nationwide search to select our new CEO, I am delighted to confirm that the Search Committee and the Board of Public Integrity unanimously chose Paul to lead us forward in our new focus on inequality in the rapidly evolving investigative journalism world. Paul has the deep background in journalism and the talent and vision to lead Public Integrity in the coming years.”

Cheung has had unique insight during his time at Knight into the landscape of national and local journalism, including the funding, business model and technology opportunities of the news industry.

He has been a leader in pushing newsrooms and other journalism institutions to advance principles of diversity, equity and inclusion and actively dismantle racist decisions and policies in hiring, management and coverage. He currently serves on the board of the News Leaders Association. As president of the Asian American Journalists Association from 2013 to 2016, he helped raise more than $2 million for training programs for journalists of color. Cheung is the first Asian American leader for Public Integrity, and one of the only persons of color to lead an national investigative news organization.

Cheung holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University and has taught at Columbia University, where he was also a Punch Sulzberger media executive leadership fellow.

After three decades of public accountability journalism leading to numerous law and policy changes and recognized with the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other honors, Public Integrity decided to focus on investigating inequality last year under the leadership of former CEO Susan Smith Richardson, who left earlier this year to join The Guardian U.S. as deputy editor.

This focus comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and worsened racial, ethnic and gender disparities across a wide range of economic, health and education indicators. The 50 wealthiest individuals in the country now own as much as the bottom 165 million Americans combined. While Millennials now dominate the U.S. workforce, they’re 10 times poorer than Baby Boomers. And as long-term demographic changes move the country toward a future in which non-Hispanic white people will be a minority, we’ve seen a coordinated rollback of civil rights protections such as voting rights and a marked increase in racist rhetoric and violence against Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native Americans.

Public Integrity’s journalism is focused on the historic and widening levels of inequality in America, using data, narrative storytelling, historical context and solutions journalism to expose how it manifests and is perpetuated in employment, housing, education, health care, access to democracy and other aspects of government, economics and society. In addition to its own deep-dive investigations, Public Integrity collaborates with local and national news organizations to scale nationwide reporting and data about discriminatory systems and outcomes based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, immigration status and income.

Over the past year Public Integrity’s work has included a 50-state look at voter disenfranchisement and an eight-year national data set on polling place closures that was a finalist for the Toner Prize for Best Political Reporting; uncovering and publishing life-saving data and public health recommendations on the true extent of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Trump White House had been keeping secret; a major series on the disparate toll climate change is having on communities of color; a look at the extent to which immigrants produce the nation’s food supply but have been cut out of health and economic productions related to the pandemic; and an investigation into the inadequate and discriminatory way in which federal and state governments provided economic aid for recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

Public Integrity also continues to be a leader in the fight for government transparency. It has sued under the Freedom of Information Act more than any other news organization besides the New York Times and Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold, including successful actions against the Trump administration that forced the release of Paycheck Protection Program loan details and documents related to the Ukraine scandal that led to impeachment.

Cheung will be relocating to Washington, D.C., where Public Integrity is based, from Miami. He starts Aug. 9.

Public Integrity retained Sally Sterling Executive Search to assist in the selection of a new CEO, working with a search committee composed of six members of the board.

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