Investigative journalism


Is good journalism enough to sustain an investigative nonprofit?

(Editor’s note: Corrections have been made to the original version of this story.) 

This is the second of four profiles of journalists at nonprofit news startups.

Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Beth Daley, a former reporter for the Boston Globe, joined the New England Center for Investigative Journalism (NECIR), in November 2013. After 20 years at the Globe, she says, she was looking for a change. After considering going freelance, she realized she would end up scrambling for money or having to find other means to support herself with a living wage.

She signed on with the non-profit investigative journalism organization, a partnership with WGBH and Boston University launched by veteran investigative journalists Joe Bergantino, Maggie Mulvihill and Tom Fiedler in 2009 at BU. More than 100 nonprofit journalism sites have since been established, like NECIR, “all racing and experimenting with sustainability,” Daley says. Read more


Making partnerships work: How a team of 50+ international reporters investigated and exposed the World Bank

Michael Hudson, a senior editor with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, was project editor for ICIJ’s World Bank investigation.

At a military camp in a violence-stained region of Central America, a Honduran Army officer informed Sasha Chavkin that he knew the reporter’s itinerary – where Chavkin was going and the people he planned to interview. When Chavkin asked how he had acquired this information, the colonel said simply: “Yo soy un militar.” (“I am a military man.”)

Justin Kipkorir displays some household items destroyed along with his home. Kipkorir said Kenyan forest rangers raided and destroyed the house weeks earlier. (Photo by Tony Karumba /  GroundTruth)

Justin Kipkorir displays some household items destroyed along with his home. Kipkorir said Kenyan forest rangers raided and destroyed the house weeks earlier.
(Photo by Tony Karumba / GroundTruth)

In Kenya’s western highlands, rifle-toting officers from the Kenya Forest Service confronted Anthony Langat and Jacob Kushner as the Nairobi-based reporters tried to interview indigenous peoples who claimed forest rangers had burned them out of their homes. Read more


Here are 9 investigative journalism fellowships

If you’re a journalist looking to take a deep dive into an important story, or just looking to bone up on your reporting skills, consider applying for some or all of the following investigative fellowships:

Investigative Reporters and Editors freelance fellowship
Deadline: March 27
Location: Various
Pay: $1,000 or more
Description: “Awards of $1,000 or more are available to assist in conducting investigative projects. These fellowships for journalists who make their living primarily as freelancers were created in 2008.”

Fellowships for registration at IRE’s conference
Deadline: Various
Location: Various
Pay: Covers the cost of attending IRE’s annual conference
Description: There’s a series of fellowships on IRE’s site that provide journalists of various backgrounds with registration and travel money for the organization’s conference. Read more


Center for Public Integrity will hire 50 freelancers to probe statehouse corruption

Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity is launching a nationwide investigation into indicators of statehouse corruption, and it’s looking for 50 freelancers to help get it done.

The State Integrity Investigation, conducted first in 2011, is a deep-dive look at factors that cause corruption in each of America’s 50 capitols, Nicholas Kusnetz, the initiative’s project manager, told Poynter in an email.

The last project resulted in more than 1,100 stories and led to reform measures passed in seven states, according to the the Center for Public Integrity. It was a 2013 finalist for Harvard’s Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Prize.

Participants will work part-time starting in fall and through early 2016 and will be expected to answer 200-300 questions using data during the first two months of the project. Read more

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covering an event with a video camera

What breaking news reveals about your newsroom culture

Here’s what a lifetime in journalism has taught me: Breaking news reveals the true character of a newsroom’s culture and quality.

Spot news success happens in cultures with specific systems, skills, values, mindsets – and leadership.

In the healthiest cultures, when news breaks, here’s what staffers can count on:

  • We have a plan. We don’t have to scramble to figure out how to respond each time a big story breaks. Everyone on our team has an understanding of the key roles that need to be filled – both in the field and at the mother ship. We automatically call in and report for duty. We adapt the basic plan by situation and story, and we’re never caught flat-footed.
  • It doesn’t matter if our boss is on vacation.
Read more

5 investigative journalism tips from New York Times’ David Barstow

After a publisher chopped away at one of David Barstow’s early investigative stories, he considered ditching journalism and heading off to law school. Since then, Barstow — now a reporter at The New York Times — has gone on to win three Pulitzer Prizes for journalism that has exposed poor working conditions and bribery in America’s companies and manipulation of the American media.

New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow (right) talks to Poynter's Butch Ward in Poynter's inaugural Master Class. Photo by Ren LaForme.

New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow (right) talks to Butch Ward, senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute at a Master Class. (Photo by Ren LaForme)

But Barstow’s professional journey hasn’t been easy. It’s one that left him with “scar tissue” and an evolving understanding of the best way to approach cagey sources, unyielding spokespersons and impatient editors.

He shared some of that knowledge Friday with senior faculty member Butch Ward for Poynter’s inaugural “Master Class,” a discussion on the trajectory of his career and some of the stories that shaped it. Read more


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. Read more

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. Read more


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


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. Read more

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