Articles about "ProPublica"


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There’s ‘Bad News About The News’ (but also a little good news)

When The Brookings Institution asked Robert Kaiser to write an essay about the state of journalism, they asked that the last section include some solutions.

“And I had to tell them when I was finished that there would be no such section,” said Kaiser, who worked for more than 50 years at The Washington Post and retired in February. Kaiser is also the author of several books, including “The News About The News.” His essay for Brookings, which came out Thursday, is entitled “The Bad News About the News.”

In several chapters he looks both back and ahead at American journalism.

“I have to say that that process made me less optimistic than I had been before it began,” Kaiser said in a phone interview.

It’s misleading, Kaiser said, to look at all the great journalists and platforms and what they’re producing online and think journalism is in good shape. There’s still no real business model.

From his essay:

Despite two decades of trying, no one has found a way to make traditional news-gathering sufficiently profitable to assure its future survival. Serious readers of America’s most substantial news media may find this description at odds with their daily experience. After all, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post still provide rich offerings of good journalism every morning, and they have been joined by numerous online providers of both opinion and news—even of classic investigative reporting. Digital publications employ thousands of reporters and editors in new and sometimes promising journalistic enterprises. Is this a disaster?

Of course not—yet. But today’s situation is probably misleading. The laws of economics cannot be ignored or repealed. Nor can the actuarial tables. Only about a third of Americans under 35 look at a newspaper even once a week, and the percentage declines every year. A large portion of today’s readers of the few remaining good newspapers are much closer to the grave than to high school. Today’s young people skitter around the Internet like ice skaters, exercising their short attention spans by looking for fun and, occasionally, seeking out serious information. Audience taste seems to be changing, with the result that among young people particularly there is a declining appetite for the sort of information packages the great newspapers provided, which included national, foreign and local news, business news, cultural news and criticism, editorials and opinion columns, sports and obituaries, lifestyle features, and science news.

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“I believe that the crucial factor in the future of journalism of the kind that democracy depends on is the survival of a small but vibrant group of really first class institutions that have shared values and traditions and the capacity to train and cultivate the next generation capable of doing this work,” Kaiser said.

The kind of investigative journalism that comes out of the Post, the Times and the Journal is hard work, he said. “It’s not something any old blogger can walk through the door and do.”

Long term, what happens if a new business model isn’t found and those papers fold?

“My pessimism is dependent, I should confess freely, on my theory that if we don’t have a New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal, we’re a much lesser place than we were with them.”

Now for the good news. Kaiser does see a few things that are working. The first is the ProPublica model.

“They’re a fourth pillar in that universe with the other three,” he said. “However, it depends on the will of people to pay for it as an act of charity.”

And that, he said, isn’t really a business model.

The other comes from Post owner Jeff Bezos, and Kaiser calls it the angel investor solution. For someone with Bezos’ money, owning the Post probably costs him the equivalent of lunch money.

The problem is, Kaiser said, Bezos is competitive.

“He won’t like idea that The Washington Post lives because he props it up. He would much prefer, I’m sure, to invent the new business model and, God willing, he’ll do that.”

Kaiser is also encouraged by sites such as Vox, The Upshot from the Times and Wonkblog from the Post.

“That’s good because policy is traditionally short changed in American journalism.”

There are also local sites, including Voice of San Diego, that provide a service to their communities.

“It’s entirely plausible to me that my doomsday scenario is accurate but won’t be seen to be happening for some number of years,” Kaiser said. “That’s possible. It’s also possible it could happen much faster.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story used the word invest instead of invent in a quote. Read more

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Career beat: Dana Liebelson joins HuffPost Politics

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Dana Liebelson will be a political reporter at HuffPost Politics. She’s a reporter for Mother Jones. (Email)
  • Ashley Codianni is now a senior producer and digital correspondent for CNN Politics Digital. She’s Mashable’s director of news video. (Fishbowl DC)
  • Cara Parks has been named executive editor at Modern Farmer. She was previously a freelancer and deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. (Observer.com)
  • Suejin Yang has been named vice president and general manager of digital entertainment at People and Entertainment Weekly. Previously, she was vice president of Bravo Digital Media. (Fishbowl NY)

Job of the day: ProPublica is looking for a research editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

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Why journalists should be skeptical about autopsy reports

A.C. Thompson is not a doctor. But neither are many of the people performing autopsies in the United States, says the ProPublica reporter, who has developed a special interest in those procedures.

“Reporters would do well to approach autopsies with some skepticism,” he said in a phone call. Among the problems with autopsies he’s outlined through his reporting: Many are performed by people with no medical training. In many jurisdictions, “When you’re cutting up dead bodies, you actually don’t have to be licensed by anyone,” he said. (Former New Orleans Parish coroner Frank Minyard told him one of the most important qualities in a coroner is the “love that you have for your fellow man.”)

Thompson.

Thompson.

Thompson read about 900 autopsies from New Orleans Parish after Hurricane Katrina and found stuff that was “absolutely mind-boggling” in them: “People would be shot to death by police, they would be beaten to death by police, and you would get an autopsy that would fail to note the very, very obvious injuries to their bodies,” he said.

St. Louis County Medical Examiner Mary Case, who conducted one of the three autopsies on Michael Brown’s body, “is known as a veteran in the field” and has an accredited medical examiner’s office, Thompson said. He wrote a piece for ProPublica, which Poynter republished Tuesday, about what to look for in reports about the autopsies.

Case’s office has yet to issue the full report from its autopsy of Brown, and the Department of Justice will reportedly release the results of its autopsy after a civil rights investigation. Such delays aren’t unusual in a high-profile case, Thompson said. Brown’s family asked for its own autopsy, whose results it released Sunday.

Another potential issue in autopsies: Pro-prosecutorial bias. “Sometimes these can be very hard cases for the local coroner, the local medical examiner to reach a completely independent opinion, and that has been a very big conversation in this field,” he said: “The need for independence, the need for these professionals to not be an arm of law enforcement.”

One of the cases Thompson reported on in New Orleans (work that won him an I.F. Stone Award and inspired a character based on Thompson on “Treme”) was that of a man named Henry Glover, whose autopsy omitted a cause of death, even though his body had been burned to death. He was shot by a police officer. Witnesses said Glover was shot in the back; his skull later vanished.

Autopsies, he said, are often viewed as a “neutral, purely scientific endeavor.” But “there can be errors,” he said. “There can be confirmation bias. There can be corruption, and it’s a ripe subject for reporters to look into.” Read more

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Career Beat: Ryan Tate is named deputy editor for The Intercept

Good morning! Here are some job updates from the journalism community!

  • Becky Bowers will be editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog. She’s currently manager of digital operations for PolitiFact and PunditFact. (@beckybowers)
  • Thomas Claybaugh is now president and publisher for Gannett Central New York Media. Previously, he was general manager of Delmarva Media Group. (Gannett)
  • Terry Horne will be publisher and president for the (Salem, Oregon) Statesman Journal. He was president and publisher of the Pensacola (Florida) News Journal. (Gannett)
  • Jason Leopold will be a reporter at Vice News. Previously, he was a reporter for Al Jazeera America. (Politico)
  • Ryan Tate, Margot Williams and Cora Currier have joined The Intercept. Tate will be the site’s deputy editor. Previously, he was a contributor for Wired and Gawker. Williams will be a research editor. Previously, she was research editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Currier will be a reporter for the site. Formerly, she was a reporting fellow at ProPublica. (The Intercept)
  • Chris Voccio is now publisher of the Niagara Gazette and the Tonawanda News. Previously, he was publisher at the Norwich Bulletin. (Gadsden Times)

Job of the day:The Gaston Gazette is looking for “a reporter who doesn’t bore us.” Don’t be “dull” — get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

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Guardian staffers win top IRE prize for NSA series

IRE


The Investigative Reporters & Editors medal for 2014 goes to Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill and others for the Guardian’s reports on the NSA, which “revealed a story that continues to reverberate in the United States and across the globe,” the judges say. (Greenwald and Poitras now work for Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media.)

ProPublica got a FOI Award for its series on revelations from government drug data.

In broadcast, New Orleans’ WVUE won for its “Body of Evidence” series, Los Angeles’ KNBC won for an investigation into bus safety and CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting won for their series on fraud at rehab clinics.

Swedish Radio beat stories by NPR, CIR and Minnesota Public Radio with a story that sounds like the plot of a Stieg Larsson novel but is, shockingly, true.

“The Girl Who Got Tied Down” is all too real: Sexually abused by her own father, only to face rape while in foster care by others. Her attackers included a senior police official who publicly proclaimed he was a “feminist.” The police chief was ultimately exposed and prosecuted in a high profile arrest. The story also focuses on a senior psychiatrist who personally profits from abandoning the girl. Drawing from the girl’s own recordings — including confrontations with staff who have ignored and neglected her — Daniel Velasco and Swedish Radio weave together a riveting story, powerful and revelatory. After the documentary aired, the psychiatrist was fired and his company lost its contract. But more important, the documentary commanded public attention to the plight of all children lost in a harsh system.

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ProPublica gets $1M grant from MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur Foundation | ProPublica

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced a $1 million grant to ProPublica. It’s the only news organization the foundation recognized as one of its “Creative and Effective Institutions.”

“As news organizations have undergone tremendous financial upheaval in recent years, many have lost the resources required to fulfill the traditional role of investigative journalism, an important way of rooting out corruption in society and maintaining an informed citizenry,” the foundation writes in its announcement.

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Paul Steiger: Obama administration’s actions threaten U.S. journalists

In an important speech on press freedoms this week, ProPublica founder Paul Steiger warned that the Obama administration’s surveillance of reporters, denial of access and efforts to silence sources constitute an assault on American journalists’ ability to do their jobs.

Speaking Tuesday night after receiving the Burton Benjamin Memorial award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steiger said in a speech posted on ProPublica that new barriers to reporters have emerged :

For the starkest comparison, I urge any of you who haven’t already done so to read last month’s report, commissioned by CPJ and written by Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post. It lays out in chilling detail how an administration that took office promising to be the most transparent in history instead has carried out the most intrusive surveillance of reporters ever attempted.

It also has made the most concerted effort at least since the plumbers and the enemies lists of the Nixon Administration to intimidate officials in Washington from ever talking to a reporter.

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Ethics of unpaid internships

Unpaid internships have been getting a lot of attention recently, most of it unwanted, as the result of lawsuits and canceled programs.

ProPublica has been covering the issue, from Northwestern’s residency program to harassment legal loopholes leaving unpaid interns vulnerable.

It recently raised $22,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to hire intern Casey McDermott to document the story of countless unpaid internships across the country.

Replay the live chat to read what ProPublica’s reporting intern Kara Brandeisky and McDermott had to say on whether we are at a turning point in unpaid internships, how widespread the practice of hiring unpaid interns is and strategies for getting and surviving one.

You can find any past chat at www.poynter.org/chats.

 

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NYT/Guardian/ProPublica collaboration: It speaks for itself, apparently

American and British spy agencies have worked to defeat most forms of Internet encryption, even going so far as to insert “back doors” into security products that allow them access to communications most would consider private.

That’s the rattling news contained in stories published Thursday as a result of a collaboration, news of which BuzzFeed broke in late August, between The New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica. The stories are reported out from documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Any such complicated collaboration on such an important story is going to generate intense interest: In what combination did the organizations share reporting, editing and source materials, for instance? The New York Times and ProPublica ran what appears to be the same story, credited to the Times’ Nicole Perlroth and Scott Shane and ProPublica’s Jeff Larson.

The Guardian’s story is credited to James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald. Both stories say intelligence officials asked the news organizations not to publish the stories, and that they removed some facts but published anyway. ProPublica wrote a separate article about its decision to publish. Did all three remove the same facts? How closely did the three operations cooperate? Read more

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ProPublica releases simple tool for searching Instagram

ProPublica

ProPublica news application developer Al Shaw discovered an Instagram API that lets you search by both time and geographic coordinates — “a perfect way to see who’s at a certain place at a certain time,” Shaw writes.

He built a simple tool called QIS, or Quick Instagram Search, that journalists could use to find Instagram photos at newsworthy events. “Just having fun with it, we found a lot of interesting stuff,” he said in a phone call with Poynter. “Anything you could type into Google Maps would work.”

One example from Shaw’s post: a photo of the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15 minutes before it was bombed. QIS could conceivably help newsrooms verify photos from breaking news events. Read more

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