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Investigative Reporting Projects

 Articles, Broadcasts, Conferences, Events

In a nine-month investigation, the Schuster Institute's team of reporters followed the intra-country migration of workers in the palm oil industry in Indonesia. "Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry Rife With Human-Rights Abuses," 
the resulting story published on July 18, 2013 in Bloomberg Businessweek, highlights the harrowing and unexpected journey one man took from freedom to slavery and back, and how few consumers, including those in the burgeoning markets of China and India, are aware of workers' plight.


Learn more:

Is there Slavery in Your Supermarket?

Beginning Tuesday, January 8, WGBH Boston Public Radio presents a multipart investigation on human trafficking—for sex and labor— and spotlights some of the people working to stop it.

The WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) investigation (supported in part by the International Center for Journalists, The Ford Foundation, and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University) takes Schuster Institute Senior Fellow and WGBH Senior Reporter Phillip Martin from Boston to Bangkok and back again, with stops in San Francisco, New York, Providence, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Vietnam.


 Slavery at Sea

Even when slaves are not trafficked to the United States, the products they catch, harvest and manufacture may wind up in American homes.

For example, in "The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch" in Bloomberg Businessweek, Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism Senior Fellow E. Benjamin Skinner documents the links between endemic debt bondage on fishing boats in New Zealand’s waters and the American seafood market.

Since the investigation was released in February 2012, the New Zealand government has changed its laws governing vessels fishing in its territorial waters.

​There are more people enslaved today than at any time in human history, according to experts (although fortunately slaves now represent a smaller proportion of the world’s population). They are forced to work without pay, under threat of violence, and are unable to escape their bondage. Slaves are forced to work in factories and on plantations, on fishing boats and farms, in gravel pits and mineral mines, in restaurants, homes and  in brothels.

Slaves are not as visible as they once were, when human beings under an owner’s whip were paraded in shackles or chains, yet estimates tell us that 20 to 27 million people are enslaved now throughout the world, including in the United States.

When resources in newsrooms are dwindling, few reporters can afford to invest the time needed to thoroughly report on the complexities of global human trafficking. The Schuster Institute is dedicating the necessary resources and time to do investigative coverage of human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Senior Fellow E. Benjamin Skinner authored the book, "A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern-Day Slavery" (Free Press, 2008), and early in 2012 he published his groundbreaking reporting on slavery in the fishing industry in Bloomberg Businessweek. That article has had an impact on fishing policy in New Zealand and corporate policies in the United States where slave-caught fish was sold to American consumers.  Skinner continues to report for the Schuster Institute on modern-day slavery, making him one of the very few investigative journalists whose work is fully dedicated to covering today’s trade of human beings.


The American Experience series “The Abolitionists” and WGBH Radio’s eight-part series, “Underground Trade: From Boston to Bangkok,” in which Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Phillip Martin traces the routes of human trafficking from Asia to the United States, spotlights the essential role of journalists in exposing slavery and raising public awareness about efforts to prevent and abolish it.

Essays by journalists and authors Adam Hochschild and Brooke Kroeger—along with her database of undercover reporting​ about slavery—illuminate how critical the efforts by reporters have been through the centuries in focusing public awareness on slavery—and remind us why journalists are continuing to tell this story now.



 Asia's Bitter Harvest: Indonesia's  Palm Oil Industry Rife With  Human Rights Abuses

  July 18, 2013, Bloomberg BusinessWeek


 The Fishing Industry's
 Cruelest Catch

  February 20, 2012, Bloomberg BusinessWeek


 How U.S. Budget Cuts Prolong  
 Global Slavery

  June 28, 2011,


 Britain's Long Fight
 Against Slavery 

 May 2, 2011, Huffington Post


 Sex (Trafficking) and
 the Super Bowl

  February 8, 2011, Huffington Post


 Modern-Day Slavery:
 A 'Necessary' Beat with
 Different Challenges

  Winter 2010, Nieman Reports


 Modern-Day Slavery on

 Washington's Embassy Row?

 June 14, 2010, Time


 South Africa's New Slave Trade
 and the Campaign to Stop It 

  January 18, 2010, Time


 Pakistan's Forgotten Plight:

 Modern-Day Slavery

 October 27, 2009, Time




 Sex Slaves in America
 Larry King Live 

CNN's Larry King Live, October 18, 2010. Schuster Institute Senior Fellow E. Benjamin Skinner joined Julia Ormond, Mira Sorvino, and Dan Rather on Larry King Live to discuss the growing epidemic of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.


 Concerns raised about
 illegal sex trade, ESPN 

ESPN, June 6, 2010. E. Benjamin Skinner addresses allegations of a rise in human trafficking resulting from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.



 Ben Skinner on Removing the "Chains" from "Supply Chains" Google Info Summit 2012

 July 18, 2012. 


EVENT //  

 Hidden in Plain Sight:
 The news media's role in
 exposing human trafficking 

June 16, 2010. The United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism collaborated in a panel discussion about how the news media have helped expose and explain modern slavery—and how we can do better. Video / transcript

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