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An hour-long weekly program featuring investigative reporting will be coming to a radio near you. And as a major fan of powerful watchdog journalism, I see that as nothing but good news.

Reveal, a joint effort of The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Public Radio Exchange, which distributes content to public radio stations, will make the transition from pilot program provider to radio lineup staple next year.

When I talked to executives at the two organizations last October, their objective was to show that there was a serious appetite for accountability journalism in public radioland. The last nine months couldn't have gone much better for them.

Their first two pilot programs ran on more than 150 stations, the third on more than 160. Reveal won a prestigious Peabody Award for CIR's piece on excessive opiate prescriptions handed out by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. And now the organizations have secured $3.5 million in funding, which will allow them to go weekly.

While radio has never been known as a prime venue for investigative reporting, Reveal's brain trust thinks the two go together splendidly.

"There's a uniquely engaging aspect to audio and radio to give voice to investigative reporting," says Jake Shapiro, PRX's CEO. "There's something particularly persuasive about radio."

REM RIEDER: Why investigative reporting is crucial

In the coming months Reveal will offer a number of podcasts and stage a live event. But the emphasis will be on making sure everything is ready when the once-a-week-on-radio format kicks in 2015 (the exact date for launch hasn't been set). Producing high-impact investigative reports every week is not a task for the fainthearted.

One of the key missions for the rest of the year is lining up partnerships. CIR is all about collaboration, and the Reveal pilots included work from the Center for Public Integrity, WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio, Michigan Radio and St. Louis Public Radio.

The partners would like to add some newspapers to the lineup. They see Reveal as an open platform for investigative reporting, not simply a showcase for work from the 37-year-old CIR.

Thanks to the infusion of new money — a three-year, $3 million grant from The Reva and David Logan Foundation and a two-year, $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation — Reveal will begin hiring more talent to make all that watchdog reporting happen. How many new staffers? "More than a handful, less than a million," says Joaquin Alvarado, the center's CEO.

At the outset, Reveal's developers said each program would consist of three segments: a behind-the-scenes look at the show's reporting; a major investigative piece, in effect a radio documentary; and a look at the impact of previous Reveal pieces. While all of those elements will be part of the mix, it turns out the format will be much less rigid.

In the third pilot, Alvarado says, the show went with three big stories, and the team was happy with the results. In the future. it's possible that the entire hour will be devoted to a single story.

"What matters most is the quality and depth of the reporting," Alvarado says.

While the early days have been encouraging, the show's developers make clear they are hardly ready to declare victory. There's a significant amount of fundraising still to be done. And while they seem to be establishing a beachhead in public radio, "in mobile and digital you have to fight for attention," Shapiro says.

Then there's the little mater of coming up with compelling accountability reporting every week. I'm glad CIR and PRX (is this enough initials?) are taking the plunge.

As the digital revolution disrupted the journalism business, many legacy news outlets cut back dramatically, and investigative reporting, which is time-consuming and expensive, was often a casualty.

But luckily, some traditional news organizations continue to recognize its importance, both as a public service and a brand builder. New investigative reporting outfits, from national powerhouse ProPublica to small local operations, have come to the fore. Both of the established centers — for Investigative Reporting and for Public Integrity — have important roles to play.

And the spread of watchdog reporting to public radio is cause for celebration.

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