investigative journalism

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The power of regional investigative reporting

We have good news about the news business to share. Our work makes a difference!

InvestigateWest's groundbreaking story on the hazards of chemotherapy exposure for health care workers has resulted in the passage of two laws improving worker safety in Washington state, signed by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire in April. One of the laws establishes an occupational cancer registry in the state, and the other regulates better regulates toxic compounds, including chemo drugs, in the workplace. That story first appeared on our web site, on msnbc.com, The Seattle Times and in a documentary we co-produced with KCTS 9.

In addition, a measure banning toxic pavement sealants also was signed into law by the governor. That effort came after InvestigateWest  wrote about the issue just over a year ago. With the governor's signature, Washington state became the first state in the nation to ban the sealants, joining a handful of smaller governments across the nation that have taken similar steps. That work appeared on our web site and on msnbc.com.

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New pathways to collaboration

The winner of the 2010 Knight Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism plans to donate part of his prize winnings to InvestigateWest as a kickstart to a potential collaborative reporting project between his current employer and the regional investigative group he helped start.

Lewis Kamb was an original founding member of InvestigateWest. With The News Tribune and other McClatchy newspapers now examining potential enterprise reporting partnerships, the timing is perfect for the idea to help foster such a collaborative effort, particularly with InvestigateWest.

As former editor of the investigative team at the Seattle P-I, I edited the prize-winning chain saw scouting package. As a co-founder of InvestigateWest and executive director and editor, I'm thrilled and honored at the prospect of working  with Kamb and the The News Tribune in a future project.

To my mind, such a collaboration would demonstrate how effectively the work of independent, nonprofit media can link the eyes and ears of news consumers with important, public service journalism. It amplifies the power and impact of  important, public service journalism in the current economic climate, a tough one for news organizations regionally and nationally. As InvestigateWest has demonstrated in the past, such partnerships can be exciting opportunities to make a difference.

Kamb's announcement comes at this year’s Knight-Risser Prize Symposium, “The Crisis in Environmental Watchdog Journalism,” to be held Nov. 17 at Stanford University. The symposium, which annually seeks to forge active collaborative links between environmental research, education, journalism, and policy-making, will examine the state of environmental watchdog journalism amid the crisis in the news industry.

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Live streaming investigative biz journalism conference

I'm in Portland at the Reynolds Center's Investigative Business Journalism conference.  Pulitzer winner Gary Cohn and former Washington Post investigative reporter Alec Klein are leading the day's instruction, which is streaming live on the Web.  You can follow it on Twitter: @BizJournalism#BizJ.

If you're too busy to tune in, check out these five investigative tips.

The Reynolds Center's future free online trainings include Unlocking Financial Statements July 19-23 and How to be an entrepreneur as a business journalist from August 9-13.

Today's agenda:

State breezes past beryllium risks in stimulus rush to hire for Hanford cleanup

Fellow nonprofit journalism center ProPublica produced this insightful report about how the state of Washington is brushing past the insidious and sometimes lethal risks of beryllium contamination during its stimulus-funded stampede to hire workers to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The report by David Epstein and Krista Kjellman Schmidt shows that the effects are more than just workplace statistics.  They have a human face.

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InvestigateWest's McClure interviewed on future of journalism

Robert McClure of InvestigateWest was interviewed by Seattlepi.com recently about our organization. Here's a link to the article.

"Our model is to sell in-depth journalism at the price that existing news outlets would pay for plain old journalism," said McClure, the Northwest reporting shop's chief environmental correspondent and one of several former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters behind the nonprofit.

The Huffington Post features InvestigateWest in an article about life after newspapers

Bill Lucey of The Huffington Post featured InvestigateWest in an article about nonprofit investigative journalism in an age of declining for-profit newsrooms.

Lucey, a former South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter, began the interview by asking what it was like to watch the Seattle Post-Intelligencer close.  To be frank, it was horrible.  

But I've replaced that memory with a year of hard work at InvestigateWest. InvestigateWest has already published in-depth stories about the environment with MSNBC.com and about social justice with seattlepi.com, KUOW-FM and the Spokesman-Review.  

We've received support from some of the most sterling foundations out there -- from the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation for our Pacific Northwest Network, from The Bullitt Foundation for our environmental reporting, from the Fund for Investigative Journalism for an upcoming story about government mishandling of our most treasured lands, and from KUOW's Program Venture Fund about Native efforts to stem the tide of drug abuse.  

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InvestigateWest receives $100,000 grant from Ethics & Excellence in Journalism

It's a big accomplishment for InvestigateWest. Our Olympic gold. rita_hibbardwebWe're happy to announce we've been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation to continue to do the hard-hitting, regional investigative work we're becoming known for. It's gold, and of Olympic quality, because in this economic climate, it's that hard to come by. And it recognizes true accomplishment in the field of independent, nonprofit journalism.  So forgive us for being a little self-congratulatory before we get back to our hard work. Congratulations to the journalists of InvestigateWest who brought us this far -- Robert McClure and Carol Smith, Kristen Millares Young and Daniel Lathrop. Nice job, everyone! And thanks to the many folks who have supported us out of the goodness of their hearts and wallets over this first 10 months of our lives. And to the good folks at the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation -- to CEO and President Bob Ross and Senior Program Officer Nancy Hodgkinson, and to Sue Hale, who provided valuable insight at the early stages of this long process when we met way back at an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in June 2009. The Foundation, based in Oklahoma City and founded  in 1982 by journalist Edith Kinney Gaylord to improve the quality and ethical standards of journalism, has long invested in improving the quality of journalism and journalism education nationwide. This year, it dedicated a portion of its funds specifically to investigative journalism. “The watchdog role of legacy media is in jeopardy due to the economic crisis facing the journalism industry,” Ross said.

How multimedia reporting can improve my environmental journalism (and yours, too!)

rm iwest mugWow. After a draining but fascinating week at the  Knight Digital Media Center's multimedia journalism boot camp, I'm itching to edit the video for what will be my second InvestigateWest piece.

And you, too, can benefit from the Knight Center's expertise -- whether you're a paid journalist or a citizen who is thinking about committing some journalism to right some wrongs. Much of what I learned, and more, is available on the center's website in the tutorials section. For me, this stuff should prove pivotal.

Our marathon learn-while-you-do sessions, lasting from 9 a.m. at least until 9 p.m. each day, allowed teams of journalists to produce actual multimedia stories. My team* was sent out to profile the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a non-profit formed by teachers to divert useable materials out of the waste stream. It not only helps teachers and artists find cheap stuff -- it also keeps landfills from filling up so fast.

Our multimedia piece features a video, an audio slideshow, a little game, information on the store and links to more resources on reuse.

 I'm grateful that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation saw fit to fund this intensive week of learning, which I'll be putting to practical use very soon.