The Pearl Project is an innovative investigative reporting project. The original investigation, conducted from 2007 through 2010 at Georgetown University, explored the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. The Center for Public Integrity published its findings in a 31,000-word report, The Truth Left Behind. At a time when investigative work is on the wane, the Pearl Project was modeled after the Arizona Project, an investigative reporting project into the murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles in 1977.
The Pearl Project has welcomed the participation of journalists, academic scholars, media organizations and sources from around the world. While we have published our original investigation, we are always interested in any new information regarding Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the release of the findings of the original Pearl Project, we have turned our attention to new projects, and we have acted as advisers to other educators who are pursuing investigations at their universities. There are faculty-student investigative reporting projects emerging at universities around the world to fill the gap created by elimination of investigative reporting teams in this age of media consolidation. We remain committed to nurturing a new generation of investigative reporters, researchers and critical thinkers.
Robert J. Ross
President and Chief Executive Officer
Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation
On Jan. 25, 2002, two days after my friend and Wall Street Journal colleague Danny Pearl left my home in Karachi, Pakistan, for an interview from which he didn’t return, I stood in front of a dining room wall I’d covered in blank paper, a thick black Sharpie pen in my hand. I wrote one name in the middle, “DANNY,” and drew a box around it. From there, over the next month, I connected the names of suspects that Pakistani cops and FBI agents relayed to Danny’s wife Mariane and me. Sadly, this strange family tree couldn’t help us find Danny alive. But in the darkness of tragedy, this rudimentary form of social network analysis had helped make sense of a seemingly senseless moment in journalism history.
For that reason, I knew that the newest tools in computer-assisted research would be critical when Barbara Feinman Todd, associate dean of journalism at Georgetown University, and I launched the Pearl Project, an investigative reporting seminar that first met in the fall of 2007, to seek answers to Danny’s murder. As a result, 32 undergraduate and graduate students, have learned traditional gumshoe reporting with new tricks of the trade, like wikis and computerized social network analysis. Dividing into beats from the FBI to Pakistan intelligence, the students have built up a source list that would match that of veteran reporters. To interview sources with first-hand knowledge of Danny’s kidnapping and murder, they’ve gone from the Embassy of Pakistan to the rooftop of a parking garage at the Pentagon City, Va., shopping mall. Our days and nights are often flipped with Pakistan 10 hours ahead of us. One night, the morning sun about to rise, graduate student Katie Balestra curled up on the carpet of my office to decompress after we’d spent the night calling attorneys in Pakistan involved in the case. Bridging the geographical divide, our Deep Throats met us in electronic chat rooms rather than back alleys. The Pearl Project is investigative reporting 2.0.