Tim Schwab

journalist and Writer in Washington, DC

Tim Schwab

journalist and Writer in Washington, DC

Read my articles

My reporting examines the intersection of public and private interests, and the conflicts of interest that can emerge.

As a 2019 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow, I investigated how large philanthropic institutions shape society---from public policy to the news media to scientific research. Publications include an investigation in the Columbia Journalism Review, examining whether the Gates Foundation’s $250 million in donations toward journalism helps explain why news media avoids critical reporting on Gates. I also penned a cover article in The Nation about Gates, showing that the most direct beneficiaries of the foundation's charity are sometimes not the world’s poorest but the world’s wealthiest.

In The BMJ, I examined a different corner of philanthropy, unearthing $14 million in charitable donations from the Sackler family (owners of Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin) to the National Academy of Medicine, whose work on opioids has long been been seen as favorable to the pharmaceutical industry. My investigation compelled several medical journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association, to issue formal corrections to the Academies' work, belatedly disclosing financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

I'm also a critic of the fourth estate; my work here includes an intensive investigation (and related movie review) into how documentary filmmakers are working with corporate sponsors to produce films that blur the line between independent cinema and industry advertising. I also wrote an essay examining the pack journalism surrounding the embattled (and now former) Cornell University Professor Brian Wansink.

Elsewhere, I've reported on a $200 million corporate research subsidy in the Farm Bill; McDonald's questionable promises around reducing its carbon footprint; the pharmaceutical industry's influence over opioid painkiller policy; and whether a scientist's non-financial interests (religion, politics, diet) should be regarded as disclosable conflicts of interest.

Prior to freelancing, I worked as a journalist for two daily newspapers and as a researcher for the NGO Food & Water Watch (which took no industry or government funding). My last major research project there, a peer-reviewed article in PLoSONE in early 2017, was credited with compelling the National Academies of Sciences' to overhaul its conflict-of-interest rules.

Twitter: @timothywschwab

Contact me at timschwab2020 at gmail