Alumni

Time and experience have proven that when investigative journalist Rob Davis, ’00, uses his reporting to explore an issue and tell a story, meaningful change can follow.

Davis didn’t expect to become a journalist, but what began as coursework and articles for The Collegian became a joy and a passion. He wrote the first defining story of his career at The Free Lance–Star, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It explored life in Dawn, Virginia, a small community founded as a freedmen’s town after the Civil War that, even in the 21st century, lacked public services as vital as indoor plumbing. “It was not a story about outhouses,” he recalled. “It was a story about a forgotten community that had been overlooked by people in power.” It wasn’t forgotten much longer; within months of his coverage, $2 million in state and federal funding was granted to rebuild homes and add plumbing.

At The Oregonian, where he now works, Davis recently completed the four-part, multimedia series “Polluted by Money,” which explored the relationship between unlimited corporate campaign contributions and environmental policy in Oregon. The series revealed how unchecked corporate interests had led to widespread harm to the air, water, land, and people, even in a state known as an environmental leader.

Davis received numerous national awards, including the Columbia Journalism School’s 2020 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, for his work on the series, and a measure to allow limits on campaign contributions appeared on the Oregon ballot in November. It passed with the support of nearly four in five voters.

“The job is not all impact and societal change,” Davis reflected. “But it provides a unique opportunity to spotlight intractable problems and speak truth to power.”