Articles about "Investigative journalism"


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Five things I learned from prize-winning journalism

I did something last year that I hadn’t done before in all my years as a journalist: I read (or otherwise consumed) virtually all of our profession’s prize-winning work.

The task was awe-inspiring; it gave me a new bar for measuring my own work as an editor.

“Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism 2013,” an e-book from The Poynter Institute

It was also daunting. As co-editor of Poynter’s first e-book, “Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism 2013,” I knew the book could feature interviews with the creators of only 10 pieces. To say the selection process was tough is an understatement. But I believe the stories we ultimately chose are a fair representation of the larger body of work in at least this way: They prove that despite journalism’s challenges and its shifting landscape, the talent, tenacity and passion to do meaningful work is ever-present.

Now a new contest season is upon us, and Poynter is deeply ensconced in seeing what else can be learned from colleagues whose work will be showcased in our 2014 edition of the book. In the meantime, I wanted to offer this: Five things I learned from last year’s jaw-dropping journalism.

Some are new insights; others are reminders of old nuggets that shouldn’t be forgotten but sometimes are.… Read more

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China Citizens Movement Trial

Covering China: for foreign and domestic press, self-censorship’s the threat

A plainclothes policeman, center, tries to block a foreign journalist filming while police detain the supporters of Xu Zhiyong near the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing Wednesday. Xu, a legal scholar and founder of the New Citizens movement, is on trial facing a charge organzing a crowd to disrupt public order. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

It’s not easy being a journalist in China these days.

Chinese reporters are facing new government restrictions, including forced training in Marxism and a new written “ideology” exam. Some, pushing the investigative envelope, have been detained, demoted and fired. Bloggers have been arrested under a new law that forbids rumor-mongering.

Meanwhile, foreign journalists have had visa renewals held up by the government, with the threat of expulsion. The standoff grew so contentious that Vice President Joe Biden had to make a personal appeal to China’s president before last-minute visas were issued earlier this month.

The troubles have prompted soul-searching among journalists about their cumulative effect. The key question for many is whether government intimidation will lead to self-censorship.… Read more

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Sheriff in NYT-Frontline story says reporter didn’t ask enough questions

In a “Message to the Media” that disappeared, then reappeared on his office’s website, St. Johns County, Fla., Sheriff David B. Shoar writes he was originally “more than willing” to discuss the death of Michelle O’Connell with New York Times reporter Walt Bogdanich, who wrote about the case and helped make a “Frontline” documentary about it. O’Connell’s boyfriend, Jeremy Banks, is a sheriff’s deputy in St. Johns County.

Reached by phone Monday, a representative for Shoar’s office said it was adding more documents and the message should reappear later. It did, as did a page collecting documents from the case.

One includes the answers Shoar says he didn’t send Bogdanich. Shoar says he decided against an interview, he wrote in an earlier letter to Bogdanich, after he became convinced that “your story has already been written.”… Read more

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New York Times, ‘Frontline’ collaborate on investigation of Florida woman’s death

Next Tuesday, “Frontline” will broadcast “A Death in St. Augustine,” an investigative collaboration with The New York Times. The Times plans to run a multimedia story on the investigation this weekend.

The collaboration tells the story of Michelle O’Connell, a Florida woman whose death was ruled both a suicide and a homicide. Her boyfriend, Jeremy Banks, a sheriff’s deputy in Florida’s St. Johns County, has sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement over its investigation of O’Connell’s death.

Producer Glenn Silber first brought the story to New York Times reporter Walt Bogdanich. “I decided it was worthy of looking into more deeply than anyone had to date because it touched on some issues I was interested in,” Bogdanich said in a phone call with Poynter. “Among them, how rigorously do police investigate one of their own?”

Michelle O’Connell (courtesy Patty O’Connell)
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How news nonprofits are making money

How can nonprofit news organizations diversify their revenue streams? A recent report from the Knight Foundation surveyed 18 nonprofit news outlets between 2010 to 2012 to find the most effective practices in the areas of finances, organizational structure and audience engagement.

Although most nonprofits increased revenue, relying less on foundation grants and bringing in money from individual donors, sponsorships, events and syndication, financial stability is still a big concern for nonprofit news.

Our guests: Anne Galloway, the founder and editor of Vermont-based VTDiggerMark Katches, the editorial director of the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, and Mayur Patel, the Knight Foundation’s vice president of strategy and assessment.

VTDigger is a five-year-old organization with six full-time employees and an annual budget under $400,000; CIR was founded in 1977 and has a staff of 73 and a budget of $10 million.

You can replay this chat at any time and find our chat archives at www.poynter.org/chats.

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University Of Alabama Sororities

How student reporters ended discrimination among University of Alabama sororities

In the weeks before school started, it was widely known on campus at the University of Alabama that a well-qualified black woman was pledging the white sororities. Her high-school resume was stellar, her family were alums and her grandfather was on the Board of Trustees.

The staff at the student newspaper, The Crimson White, was poised to document the seminal moment when she was accepted, which would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the university’s integration.

But the woman received no invitations to join any of the school’s 16 white sororities.

A couple days after the invitations were issued, Culture Editor Abbey Crain and Magazine Editor Matt Ford both stepped up at the Crimson White. Crain said in a phone interview for the Poynter Excellence Project that she assumed someone else was already working on the story and just wanted to help. Instead, she found herself as the lead reporter. Ford said he just wanted to tell a good story when he volunteered, and wasn’t even aware of the 50th anniversary.

Over the next three weeks, the two asked dozens of sorority members if they would describe the closed-door negotiations that led to invitations. Nearly all of the people approached said no.… Read more

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IRE’s Horvit: To be an effective reporter, get more comfortable with data

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), recently shared his thoughts on how data has changed investigative reporting and how IRE fits into the future of journalism.

IRE partnered with Poynter to run a week-long program on investigating local government on a shoestring budget last week. A large portion of the training revolved around using data, including teaching journalists how to source documents and use spreadsheets.

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RELIANT

What the ESPN/Frontline breakup teaches us about investigative reporting

As we put the pieces together in this week’s ESPN/Frontline breakup, we’ve learned something about investigative journalism: it’s incredibly difficult for a news organization to hold its own partners accountable.

That may have been obvious. But for the 18 months I was the lead writer on the Poynter Review Project, which served as ESPN’s ombudsman, the brass in Bristol, Conn., insisted ESPN could do both.

We don’t surprise our partners, ESPN executives told me. But they always added that not surprising partners wasn’t the same as not investigating them, as ESPN and Frontline were doing with the NFL. And indeed, ESPN has amassed a remarkable body of work on the subject at hand, the long-term effects of concussions on professional football players.

But investigative reporting is more than just acknowledging harsh realities. Investigative journalists take a stand.

ESPN reporters Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, along with journalists at PBS’  Frontline, seem to clearly have formed the opinion that the NFL was negligent in its response to the concussion problem. The two-part documentary and the book that emerged from their reporting is titled “League of Denial.”

The tone of a trailer for the documentary is clearly accusatory, and it was this tone that reportedly gave ESPN CEO John Skipper pause.… Read more

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Air America Documents

Declassification Engine provides solution to processing declassified documents

At a time when “big data” is in vogue and computational journalism is taking off, reporters need efficient ways to process millions of documents. The Declassification Engine is one way to solve this problem. The project uses the latest methods in computer science to demystify declassified texts and increase transparency in government documents.

The project’s mission is to “create a critical mass of declassified documents by aggregating all the archives that are now just scattered online,” said Matthew Connelly, professor of international and global history at Columbia University and one of the professors directing the project, in a phone interview with Poynter.

Matthew Connelly
(matthewconnelly.net)

The team working on the project, which began in September 2012, is made up of historians, statisticians, legal scholars, journalists and computer scientists.

All the data fed into The Declassification Engine comes from declassified documents, mostly from the National Archives, including more than a million telegrams from the State Department Central Foreign Policy Files. The Declassification Engine database also includes documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Declassification Engine’s website offers some interesting stats on declassification and says “95 percent of historical documents end up being destroyed in secrecy.”

The New York Times reported the federal government spent more than $11 billion in 2011 to protect classified information, excluding costs from the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.… Read more

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Why it’s time to stop romanticizing & begin measuring investigative journalism’s impact

Charles Lewis, one of the luminaries of nonprofit investigative journalism, sees a culture clash brewing as the sector continues to grow, covering what shrinking legacy media may miss and, more recently, innovating with powerful reporting techniques.

On the one hand, foundations big and small want metrics that demonstrate results analogous to assessments they apply to arts projects, social service initiatives and advocacy work.

On the other hand, Lewis wrote in a white paper last month, “veteran editors and reporters, particularly of the investigative ilk, have an inherent, almost visceral dislike of audience measurement and engagement strategies.” Instead they see themselves “as intrepid hunter-gatherers of information” who overcome a host of obstacles to produce important, even heroic, journalism.

The conflict might be academic were it not for the current state of play in nonprofit funding. Established nonprofit news sites need second and third rounds of support from foundations, and startups find foundations “feeling a bit overwhelmed and besieged by proliferating prospective grantees,” Lewis wrote.

In an e-mail interview, Lewis added, “Subjectivity is a serious occupational hazard for any grantor attempting to measure impact…Some foundations seem to be somewhat obsessed with these questions and issues, and others, not so much (especially smaller foundations with very few staff)”  But he expects the level of scrutiny to keep rising.… Read more

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