CIR raises funds for investigation into ‘neighborhood NSA’

The Center for Investigative Reporting hopes to raise $25,000 to report on surveillance by local authorities, a practice speeded by technological improvements and federal money. Subscribers get benefits on a sliding scale — from a tote bag and a tour of CIR’s newsroom if you donate $350 to email alerts when new stories go up if you pledge $5 per month.

Beacon, which is handling fundraising for the series, refers to those alerts as “subscriptions,” but CIR spokesperson Lisa Cohen tells Poynter any stories that come from this project will be available on the CIR website, and “CIR will be working with partners as the stories warrant,” Cohen writes.

“During the past year, we’ve learned a lot about the federal government’s surveillance program, but we still know very little about how local police collect and mine data,” CIR reporter Amanda Pike says in a video accompanying the pitch.

If the project gets funded, CIR says it will use the money to secure public records, travel around the country reporting and “Create community engagement events where local citizens can learn about and debate the rise of surveillance.”

Last year, ProPublica raised $24,000 to help report on internships. ProPublica Community Editor Blair Hickman told Poynter the crowdfunding was an experiment somewhat at odds with the usual methods of funding investigative journalism: “With investigative stories you don’t often know where they will lead, but most crowdfunding is looking for very definite product to deliver,” Hickman said.

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