CBS Launches Joint Investigation Between News, Stations, Streaming

Crime Without Punishment on CBS News and Stations
(Image credit: CBS News and Stations)

In the first joint investigation between CBS News, CBS Stations and CBS News Streaming, CBS News and Stations has launched a data-driven investigative series that explores why police departments are seeing a steady decline in the percentage of homicide cases solved across the country. 

The series is entitled Crime Without Punishment. It is a collaboration between the CBS News Investigative Unit and the CBS Local News Innovation Lab, which launched in January. The pair worked together to analyze data and provide information to fuel reporting across all platforms.

“The full power of a combined CBS News and Stations is on full display,” Neeraj Khemlani, CBS News president and co-head, said. “This collaborative investigation is an ambitious combination of data analysis and investigative reporting. Our local and national teams came together to analyze FBI data and historic arrest figures gathered by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project. The results showed that arrests in murder cases across the U.S. are at a 50-year low. When a murder victim is Black, their case is even more likely to remain unsolved.”

The investigative series airs on CBS News programs, CBS Stations’ newscasts in 14 markets, CBS News Streaming, CBS Newspath and CBS News Radio, among other platforms. CBS News chief investigative and senior national correspondent Jim Axelrod is leading the series. 

CBS merged its news and stations divisions in April 2021. 

“This initiative is a strong indicator of how far we have come in bringing CBS News and CBS Stations together to create the finest local to national to global news organization in the country,” said Wendy McMahon, CBS News president and co-head. “It has been great to see our teams collaborating on this project and even more exciting to know that we can and will produce many more of these impactful collaborations going forward.”

Crime Without Punishment builds on CBS News and Stations’ ongoing coverage about crime, with a focus on the increasing number of murder cases never closed and how that reverberates in the community. 

“We started this project to try and understand the ramifications of what we were seeing around us with the rise in violent crime, the mass shootings, the breakdown in trust between the police and the communities they serve,” Matthew Mosk, CBS News senior investigative editorial director, said. “The project has now grown into something that touches nearly every corner of our newsroom. We wanted to understand the real-life consequences for the relatives of victims. We embedded with homicide detectives as they helped puzzle through the reasons for this trend. And we went in search of the experts who were already trying to find solutions.”

Mosk said the project has been in the works for around three months. “There’s been a steady clip of bad news about crime,” he told B+C, “and we really want to try and take a closer look at some of the factors behind the increase in violence in American cities.”

CBS News Streaming will premiere a 30-minute CBS Reports documentary, Crime Without Punishment: Fighting For Justice, June 30 on CBS News Streaming.

“The CBS Reports franchise has historically taken Americans inside the unseen issues of the country, and we continue that tradition of telling important stories with this new half-hour documentary,” said Nancy Lane, senior executive producer of CBS Reports and senior VP of programming and development for CBS News Streaming. “The Crime Without Punishment: Fighting for Justice documentary will give viewers a first-hand account from those personally affected by the severe drop in homicide clearance rates and the pain of justice that never comes.”

The CBS stations include WCBS New York, KCBS Los Angeles and WBBM Chicago. WCBS looks at the issue of race disparities in New York clearance rates. KCBS employs data to describe how two murder cases in one family had two different outcomes. He interviews a mother who lost both of her sons to murder. In one case, justice was served. WBBM looks into “exceptional clearance,” where a crime is cleared despite no one being arrested, and the disparity it causes between the clearance rate and the substantially lower arrest rate.

“The combined resources of CBS News and Stations allow us to report important and previously untold stories like this in a way no other news organization can,” said Chad Cross, VP of content development at CBS Stations. “This is the first of many joint efforts to put a national spotlight on a significant issue of concern and then have the teams at our Stations and data journalists at our Local News Innovation Lab advance our reporting across the local communities we serve.”

The stations and national news division have worked together in the past, including reporting on the Surfside condominium collapse a year ago outside Miami. The new venture takes the partnership a step or two further. Cross told B+C that “deep-dive data analysis is not something every newsroom has the bandwidth to do. We provide custom data research that helps [national and local reporters] tell their stories.”

Khemlani said News and the station group bring out the best in each other. “Their work is now being showcased on all our platforms–local, national and streaming,” he said. “This is what CBS News and Stations is built for.”

More data-driven local/national investigative projects will follow. “We’ve got a hold of something here,” said Mosk. “It’s a way to really get underneath a story locally and nationally.” ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.