Bulking up: USA Today triples its investigative unit

August 28, 2018
Category: Newsletters

CIR’s Pyle to join unit, which will expand on a core mission

USA Today is tripling the size of its investigative reporting staff and has hired Amy Pyle of the Center of Investigative Reporting to help run its expanded operation.

The goal is to “up our cadence” on stories that affect readers across the country, says Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today. The move follows a Pulitzer Prize this year in explanatory reporting for the USA Today Network and Carroll’s old paper, The Arizona Republic, for their immersive look at the planned wall and its effects on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s our mission,” Carroll says of investigative reporting. “It’s what we’re here to do. It drives audience,” such as engaged minutes on the stories and the impact of response of officials and communities. “When you grow audience, and your quality, you grow your business."

The move from eight to 24 journalists will be apart from enhanced ties between USA Today and its network of outlets nationwide, says Chris Davis, executive editor and vice president of investigations at USA Today Network.

One example of high-impact work beyond “The Wall” is an investigation into maternal mortality — particularly of hospitals skipping established safety practices. Three hundred women wrote in about their near-death experiences, Davis says.

Other top projects include truck drivers forced practically into servitude while working for big-box stores, and schools that have hired teachers with records of abuse in other districts.

Pyle, CIR’s editor-in-chief, oversaw a team that produced a Pulitzer finalist for All Work. No Pay, in which private companies have capitalized on court-ordered drug rehabilitation programs to coerce people into low-paying jobs. The workers cannot quit, or they face a violation of their rehab provisions — and perhaps prison. Her staff also co-produces Reveal, a weekly investigative podcast and radio show broadcast on 270 public stations nationwide.

Pyle’s hiring follows that of Matt Doig, formerly of The Information and the Los Angeles Times, who heads the Network’s investigative unit, working with local papers and stations.

Davis says Doig and Pyle will head two branches of the investigative team; engagement editor Anne Godlasky will have a team under her, and John Kelly will head the data team. There is also a three-member video unit.

News operations like The Washington Post may focus on machinations in the nation’s capital, Davis says. “The kinds of stories we’re looking for are the kinds that impact real people across the country,” he says.

Quick hits

SPEAKING OF INVESTIGATIVE: The Army announced it would be testing 40,000 U.S. homes on military bases for lead. The announcement followed a Reuters investigation into dangers in military-base housing, following looks at “other Flints” nationwide.

MCCAIN THE SNAKE CHARMER?: Hob-nobbing with reporters may have saved Senator John McCain’s career in the early 1990s, and he didn’t flinch when challenged by a reporter, said CBS’s Bob Schieffer. “When you spend five and a half years in a prison camp, you’re not going to be cowed by some reporter asking you a tough question,” he said. Related: McCain’s final statement.

WHAT MCCAIN SAW: A Republican presidential candidate, disgusted with Paul Manafort’s criminal dependence on Moscow, denied him a key GOP job in 2008. By Franklin Foer for The Atlantic.

MOLLIE TIBBETTS AND US: Monica Hesse writes about all the times women she knows — and herself — have been approached by creeps who turn threatening. "When we read about Mollie Tibbetts,” she writes, “a lot of us weren’t thinking about undocumented immigrants, or statistics, or policy changes. We were just thinking about the times we have been approached by strangers in everyday places, wondering if we could reject them politely and move on with our days, or if this time we would end up in the trunk of a car."

AND, FROM TUMBLR: The social network says it, too, will ban hate speech, revenge porn and the glorification of violence such as school shootings, reports Shannon Liao of The Verge. 

COMINGS AND GOINGS: Facebook communications executive Rachel Whetstone is leaving for Netflix, Recode’s Kara Swisher reports. … Ozy has hired Michelle Bruton as its new sports editor, based in Chicago. … Vox Media has hired Hetal Patel, fomerly of iHeartMedia, as its first head of sales research and insights.

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