Articles about "Investigative journalism"


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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. 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
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. 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. Read more

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Small paper’s ongoing investigation into local police leads to suspensions, resignations

The Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger has delivered almost daily installments this summer of a story of law enforcement dysfunction that seems more like a script for Reno 911 than a scandal plaguing a modern-day police department.

Five officers have resigned or been fired, others have been reassigned or suspended pending further investigation, and up to 20 people, current officers, former officers and city employees have been implicated. Five prominent citizens resigned from an advisory council before the first meeting.

City commissioners are struggling to isolate themselves from political fallout. And investigators have exposed a culture of sexual harassment and permissiveness, which includes documentation of police officers and staff members having sex in city offices, police cars, city parks and abandoned property.

About 200 people packed a town hall meeting this week, where most participants voiced support for the embattled police chief. A small number criticized the paper for being sensational, but at least one citizen defended The Ledger. Read more

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How to overcome your fear of FOIAs

For many journalists, FOIA is a scary four-letter acronym, sometimes stifling investigations before they even begin. This guide aims to demystify Freedom of Information Act processes, giving you the tools and confidence to ask for the information you need to write your next investigative story.

Why FOIA requests are so helpful

FOIA is both a federal and state-based law granting individuals and organizations the right to access most governmental agency records. As such, it’s a critical tool that helps journalists in their reporting and writing. Public-records requests are essential to supporting the journalistic values of holding the government accountable and ensuring openness.

Via FOIA, the government provides the information you need; however, the research and analysis associated with the information obtained is left up to you.

What information is available via FOIA

FOIA promises public access to government public meetings and records, which generally includes all documents, files and records made or received in connection with the transaction of official business. Read more

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Wisconsin’s government has other ties to journalism orgs

The Cap Times | Wisconsin Reporter

The state budget bill that would kick the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk. Legislators objected to a journalism nonprofit receiving office space in a state building.

Jack Craver asks: So how’s that different from news organizations getting office space at the state Capitol? Read more

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Seattle Times asks readers to help with a mystery

The Seattle Times

Seattle-based Social Security Administration investigator Joe Velling is trying to untangle the case of Lori Ruff, who killed herself in Texas in late 2010. She left behind a box that showed she’d stolen the identity of a child who died in a fire in Fife, Wash., then changed her name legally.

The paper has put photos of clues to Ruff’s identity online and asked readers for clues. “So far, we’ve gotten a lot of response, but they haven’t cracked the case yet,” reporter Maureen O’Hagan wrote in an email to Poynter. Read more

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Portland Press Herald investigation leads governor to issue gag order

Colin Woodard received several tips last year about “a reign of terror” on the staff of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.

As he looked into the tips, Woodard began unraveling a twisted truth: Patricia Aho, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection commissioner and a former corporate and industrial lobbyist, has been fighting against laws and programs that her former clients in the real estate development, drug, chemical and oil companies opposed.

His reporting led to a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation, “The Lobbyist in the Henhouse,” which was published this week.

The three-part series offers a detailed look at programs that have reportedly suffered as a result of Aho’s leadership — including the Kid Safe Products Act, a law that protects children, babies and fetuses from harmful chemicals. Woodard also discovered that Aho oversaw a clampdown on the DEP’s personnel that limited their ability to share information with policy staff, lawmakers and one another. Read more

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Talk-show host: Wisconsin Watch move should ‘appall those of us in the conservative media’

WTMJ | Associated Press | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | CJR |
A Wisconsin legislative committee’s motion to kick the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison “combines some of the worst aspects of the IRS and DOJ scandals,” Milwaukee radio talk-show host Charlie Sykes writes, “using government to punish those perceived as political enemies combined with a clear assault on the free press. … The move should especially appall those of us in the conservative media.”

Republican state senator Dale Schultz called the action “petty,” the Associated Press reports.

The committee’s vote was “12-4 along party lines, with Republicans in the majority,” Karen Herzog reports in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Read more

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