Photo of Mark Schoofs
Photo courtesy of BuzzFeed News

Mark Schoofs joins School of Journalism to lead investigative journalism programming

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Schoofs is joining the USC Annenberg School of Journalism to teach, train and inspire the next generation of high-impact digital journalists.

Schoofs, who established BuzzFeed News’ first investigative unit by recruiting a groundbreaking team of reporters on three continents, will advance the school’s investigative journalism program.

“This is a strategic investment in one of our most important missions: the education and training of ethical, intellectually rigorous journalists,” said Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “By having Mark Schoofs, one of the country’s leading journalists, join USC Annenberg, we are increasing our commitment to investigative journalism and supporting the development of innovative new curriculum and programs under his leadership.”

Known industrywide for his ability to advance investigative reporting in a digital media age, Schoofs brings 30 years of experience to USC Annenberg, including serving as an editor at ProPublica and an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Most recently, at BuzzFeed News, Schoofs and his team’s work exonerated the wrongfully imprisonedexposed abuse at America’s largest psychiatric hospital companyrevealed abuse and neglect at America’s largest for-profit foster care company, and uncovered how one of the United Kingdom’s largest banks systematically profited by destroying small businesses and selling their assets.

At a time when many investigative units were retrenching, Schoofs fostered a team at BuzzFeed News that grew to more than 20 journalists, including three Pulitzer Prize winners. He launched a fellowship for investigative journalists from diverse backgrounds, which led to the hiring of a reporter who this year won the George Polk Award.

In 2017, BuzzFeed News was recognized with its first Pulitzer Prize finalist selection for a series that shed light on a little-known but immensely powerful global court used by multinational corporations to wring hundreds of millions of dollars from poor nations. This year, BuzzFeed News was again a Pulitzer finalist, this time for a series that revealed how the U.S. and U.K. governments turned a blind eye to suspected Russian assassinations on their soil. Both series came from the investigative team led by Schoofs.

“I’m thrilled to be joining USC’s superb and trailblazing Annenberg School of Journalism, where we will build the future of great investigative reporting,” Schoofs said. “As I have done throughout my career, I will be looking for relentless diggers and will prepare them to thrive in today’s media industry.”

“Launching and leading the investigations team at BuzzFeed News was an absolute honor, and one of the best experiences of my life,” he added. “I’m excited to remain a part of this great organization as a contributing editor.”

School of Journalism Director Gordon Stables believes, at such a defining moment for journalism, Schoofs will be an ideal teacher and mentor.

“By transforming Buzzfeed, a digital media pioneer known for its entertaining viral content, into a true force for surfacing stories about critical issues, Mark has demonstrated a unique ability to help produce and expand a culture of investigative journalism in the public interest,” Stables said. “We expect he will share that same passion for accountability journalism with our students while identifying and nurturing top talent in our classrooms and media center.”

Prior to joining BuzzFeed, Schoofs was a senior editor at ProPublica overseeing investigative reporters covering a wide range of topics, from Wall Street to the environment and healthcare.

For more than a decade, he was a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal. During that time, he showed how war and neglect decimated basic healthcare and disease prevention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also infiltrated two of the largest gangs in South Africa to expose the inner workings of the global trade in methamphetamine ingredients. In 2010, he played a key role in the Journal’s “Secrets of the System” series, which mined Medicare claims databases to uncover abuse and fraud; the series was a Pulitzer finalist.

Schoofs was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for an eight-part series that detailed the devastating impact of the AIDS crisis in Africa. He authored that series as a staff writer focusing on science and medicine at the Village Voice. Schoofs was also part of the Wall Street Journal team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

In addition, Schoofs’ work has been recognized with the AAAS Science Journalism Award, the New York Association of Black Journalists Award for International Reporting, and the Overseas Press Club’s Bob Considine Award.

Schoofs’ appointment furthers the school’s commitment to investigative journalism, which includes partnering with the Ring Foundation to host the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Journalism and supporting graduate journalism education. For nearly 30 years, the Selden Ring Award has recognized the unique impact of investigative reporting and underscored its importance as a cornerstone of democratic society. In 2017, the Ring Foundation pledged $1.4 million to support an endowed fellowship at USC Annenberg for graduate students pursuing investigative journalism.