Press Releases

Watchdog.org’s Texas Bureau in Print

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

October 8, 2014
Contact: Michael Moroney
Michael.Moroney@franklincenterhq.org
571-385-0774

Houston, Texas — This week,  Watchdog.org’s Texas Bureau is excited to announce a new initiative to distribute some of our best investigative content in print straight to Texans’ doorsteps. Over the past year, Watchdog.org reporter Jon Cassidy has worked feverishly to uncover a Texas-sized scandal between lawmakers and officials at the state’s flagship university. With the launch of Watchdog.org’s print initiative, we’ll deliver readers highlights from Cassidy’s investigative series, Trouble in Texas, exposing government abuse in the Lone Star State.

Even in the digital age, there’s still a desire and need for investigative, honest print journalism—we believe stepping into this medium will help us keep thousands more informed about what their government officials are up to.

Click here to get a copy of the Watchdog Newspaper delivered to your home!

Early this month, Watchdog announced it’s new Watchdog Radio, an ambitious new project that will bring our top-notch statehouse journalism to listeners all over the country, and Watchdog Opinion, a new online hub for top newsmakers, analysts, economists, and policy makers to join the debate and make their voice heard.

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a leader in non-profit journalism. It was founded in 2009 to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training and assistance with a mission of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.

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Watchdog.org Launches Ambitious New National Radio Initiative

Monday, September 29th, 2014

September 29, 2014
Contact: Breyana Franklin
571-384-2090
bfranklin@watchdog.org

Watchdog.org Launches Ambitious New National Radio Initiative

Alexandria, VA — Today, Watchdog.org, a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, launched Watchdog Radio, an ambitious new broadcast initiative at the state and national level, that aims to replicate the success of Watchdog.org’s online reporting. Illinois Watchdog Radio and National Watchdog Radio will provide content for radio stations of all sizes throughout The Prairie State and across the country.

“Watchdog Radio is a chance for us to connect with a wider audience and bring them news stories that are impacting communities all over the country,” said Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. “It is our goal to discuss the issues that others don’t and keep Americans informed on waste, fraud and abuse at every level of government.”

National Watchdog Radio will syndicate on weekends, hosted by Watchdog.org reporters Eric Boehm and Matt Kittle. The two-hour show that will focus on state and local governments across the states, as well as larger national trends. Kathryn Watson of Watchdog.org’s Washington D.C. Bureau will discuss the most interesting stories of the week from Watchdog.org.

“There are a lot of local radio shows that talk about city council, and plenty of national shows that talk about President Obama,” Watchdog Radio Host Matt Kittle said. “But no one else is focusing on state government, and how the policies impact everything from local schools to the price of groceries. Watchdog Radio fills that gap. I am excited to have that conversation with people everyday.”

Illinois Watchdog Radio will air Monday-Friday from 9am-11am CST. Benjamin Yount, Illinois Watchdog reporter and 10 year Illinois Capitol veteran, will serve as the host. The show will stream live here and will also be heard on stations across the state.

“The closer government is to you, the faster it will impact your life,” Illinois Watchdog Radio Host Benjamin Yount said. “Lawmakers in Springfield may seem far away from someone in northern Illinois or somebody downstate, but the reality is that state government has much more of an everyday impact on people’s lives than Congress. That’s why, everyday, we need to have a conversation about what’s going on at the statehouse.”

For more information, please contact Breyana Franklin at bfranklin@Watchdog.org

 

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a leader in non-profit journalism. It was founded in 2009 to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training and assistance with a mission of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.

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Remembering 9/11

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Jason Stverak911Anniversary

It’s still painful to recall the horror from thirteen years ago. We saw evil that day, but we were not destroyed, and we did not despair. On the contrary, many acted heroically and selflessly to rescue those in harm’s way. America rallied around our devastated brothers and sisters, we stood united as a country, and we still stand united in remembrance of the tragedy we witnessed. Our response was and is a testament to how strong we are together as a nation. 

The lessons from September 11th, 2001 stay with us to this day–that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, that life is precious, that every day is a gift, and that we each have a responsibility to steward the freedoms of this life we’ve been given. Let us remember the tragedy of the past today, and let it spur us on to create a brighter future for this great nation we all know and love.

Franklin Center Statement on Steven Sotloff

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

September 2, 2014
Contact: Michael Moroney 571-385-0774
Michael.moroney@franklincenterhq.org

Photo Credit: Daily Caller

Photo Credit: Daily Caller

Alexandria, VA — Today, Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity released the following statement on Steven Sotloff:

“Today, we’re reminded anew that those who work tirelessly to bring us the news from devastated war-zones are true heroes. A year after Steven Sotloff was kidnapped by the militant group Islamic State while reporting in Syria, he was executed for his commitment to the truth in a land that so desperately needs it.

“It takes unspeakable courage to come face to face with evil with little more than a notepad in hand, undeterred and resolved to tell the story any cost. Steven put his life on the line so that the world could see the horrors of oppression and the suffering of the voiceless, and we honor his sacrifice.”

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a leader in non-profit journalism. It was founded in 2009 to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training and assistance with a mission of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.

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Police arrest reporters in Ferguson

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

By Jason Stverak

Last night, police in Ferguson, MO, took unwarranted and questionable action against the free press, arresting two harmless reporters and targeting several others with tear gas. This abuse of power shows how vulnerable the First Amendment remains, nearly 225 years after the Founding Fathers enshrined the rights of journalists in the Constitution.

Regardless of the broader context of unrest in Ferguson, the police’s decision to harass Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, to illegally order them to stop videotaping officers, and to arrest and detain the reporters without charge is indefensible. The officers made a mockery of both the free press and the legal system that millions of Americans have laid down their lives to protect.

America is a nation of laws, rights, and freedoms–a place where reporters can cover the government without fear of retribution, and where the government isn’t allowed to lock its citizens up without due process and then pretend it never happened. When an agent of the state decides these freedoms are “optional,” as the Ferguson police did, the foundation of our entire republic is weakened.

Judge Throws Out $85 Million Lawsuit Against Franklin Center

Friday, July 25th, 2014

July 25, 2014
Contact: Michael Moroney
571-385-0774
Michael.moroney@franklincenterhq.org

Alexandria, VA — Yesterday, a federal court in Mississippi dismissed an$85 million lawsuit filed by GreenTech Automotive accusing the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity and Watchdog.org Virginia bureau chief Kenric Ward of defamation and business interference.

“I stand behind our work and had no doubt that GreenTech’s claims would be dismissed,” said Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center. “We’ve always believed this lawsuit was merely an attempt to silence the press in an election year. We will remain committed to reporting the truth and exposing waste, fraud and abuse.”

In December 2012, Watchdog.org began a investigation series on Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his ties to GreenTech Automotive, the “green” car manufacturing company he founded. Watchdog.org then published two articles detailing McAuliffe’s connection with GreenTech, where he had formerly served as chairman. Shortly after publication of those articles, GreenTech filed a lawsuit accusing the Franklin Center and Watchdog.org of defamation, claiming that it lost $85 million in investment capital after the articles were published.

“There’s no denying that defending the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of our reporters has been costly to us in terms of time, people and money,” Stverak said, “but it’s hard to put a price on defending the Constitution.”

GreenTech chose to sue in Mississippi, where the company says it is building an assembly plant. However, GreenTech, its financial arm Gulf Coast Funds Management, and Franklin Center are headquartered in Northern Virginia. The court ruled that the lawsuit, filed against the Franklin Center should not have been filed in Mississippi because the two stories at the center of the suit were focused on Gov. McAuliffe.

“The articles were aimed at McAuliffe and his bid to become Governor of Virginia, and McAuliffe sustained the ‘brunt of the harm’ of the published articles while GreenTech allegedly suffered from the residuary effects of the articles,” said Judge Michael P. Mills.

The judge further noted that Watchdog’s “articles were not aimed at Mississippi” or even GreenTech itself.

“We believe the court’s decision underscores the necessary — and constitutional — role of a press that’s free to investigate the activities of government in America,” said Will Swaim, vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center.

More details about the case are detailed here.

For more information, please contact Michael Moroney at Michael.Moroney@FranklinCenterHQ.org

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a leader in non-profit journalism. It was founded in 2009 to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training and assistance with a mission of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.

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Franklin Center Urges Senate to Pass an Equitable, Effective Media Shield Law

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Date: June 23, 2014
Contact: Michael Moroney
571-385-0774
michael.moroney@franklincenterhq.org

Alexandria, VA — Today, the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity sent letters to all 100 U.S. Senators urging them to pass an effective media shield law while voicing concern over the application of protections provided by the Free Flow of Information Act (S.987).

“The recent Supreme Court decision not to hear the appeal of New York Times reporter James Risen is yet another compelling reason for Congress to take action on an effective media shield law,” said Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center. “Although Risen should be protected as a journalist under the First Amendment, it’s increasingly clear that the nation’s highest court will not protect journalists like Risen from harassment, subpoenas, and the threat of jail time, simply for doing their job and upholding the ethical standards of the profession.”

FFIA extends much-needed legal protections to journalists, but limits protections to those who fit a very narrow and antiquated definition of a reporter–someone who has been recently employed at an established news outlet. These parameters may have worked in 1996, but today, a great deal of journalism is done online by independent publishers, and the proposed law would allow federal judges to exclude this entire class of reporters from legal protections.

The legislation would extend protections to journalists who have been employees of recognized news organizations for at least one year of the past 20, or three months in the past year, and would also cover some student journalists and freelancers. This definition might have made a little more sense 20 years ago, but the proliferation of new media, blogs, and other web-based publications has rendered the traditional definition of a “journalist” as a newspaper or broadcast employee meaningless.

Trying to define “journalism” as we would “accounting” or some other profession–by salary, education, and place of  employment–is futile, because journalism spans a broader spectrum of pursuits than some politicians may care to recognize. Instead of exacerbating this uncertainty, the Senate should turn its focus to clearly defining the actions that constitute journalism, and extend protections to anyone who engages in these actions while they are actively engaged, hinged on the intent to publish.

“A true media shield law would understand that journalism is an act, not a profession, and protect all those who engage in the activities of journalism with the intent to publish–regardless of their employment status,” said Stverak. “This type of forward-thinking legislation would protect James Risen and every other truth-seeking reporter who builds a relationship with a confidential source, and allow for a stronger and more cohesive Fourth Estate.”

You can find a copy of the letter sent to FFIA sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer here. Similar letters were sent to other Senators.

For media inquiries, contact Michael Moroney at Michael.moroney@franklincenterhq.org.

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a leader in non-profit journalism. It was founded in 2009 to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training and assistance with a mission of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.

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Franklin Center Statement on Supreme Court Decision in Jana Winter Appeal

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Date: June 3, 2014
Contact: Michael Moroney
571-385-0774
michael.moroney@franklincenterhq.org

Alexandria, VA — Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity made the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reject an appeal by the lawyers of James Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado movie theater shooting, in an attempt to force a Fox News reporter to reveal her sources.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision to reject an appeal by the lawyers for Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes to compel Fox News reporter Jana Winter to reveal confidential sources may seem like a victory for the free press, but in reality, the high court’s refusal to set a clear precedent in defending press freedom more generally is cause for concern. If press freedom isn’t protected, government will operate unchecked.

While the Supreme Court’s decision to punt on this issue was resolved in Winters’s favor, New York Times reporter James Risen was not as lucky. Risen continues to face jail time for refusing to comply with Justice Department orders to reveal his sources. The First Amendment theoretically protects the Fourth Estate, but as the high court refuses to set a clear precedent, reporters remain at risk and the power of the press to hold government accountable is weakened.

The lack of clarity and consistency from the high court demonstrates the glaring need for a federal shield law that protects all reporters from the threats of harassment and subpoena.

A federal media shield law, similar to laws on the books in 48 states and the District of Columbia, would offer clearly defined protections from subpoena to reporters like Winter and Risen, keeping their fate out of the hands of an inconsistent judiciary and strengthening their First Amendment rights as members of the free press. This legislation should protect all those who engage in the actions of journalism with the intent to publish from undue government harassment, and enshrine the confidential relationship between a reporter and their source.

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Franklin Center Statement on Shield Law Amendment

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

June 4, 2014
Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Press Contact: Michael Moroney
Michael.Moroney@franklincenterhq.org

 

Alexandria, Va—Today Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity made the following statement in response to the House of Representatives’ addition of a media shield amendment to H.R. 4660,

“In the wake of recent court rulings that threaten the central ethics of journalism, the House of Representatives’ addition of a media shield amendment to H.R. 4660, a federal appropriations bill, is a step in the right direction. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)’s amendment to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act would prohibit funding for the Department of Justice to force reporters to disclose confidential sources in court–protecting these reporters from harassment, subpoenas, and the threat of jail time.

The relationship between a journalist and his or her source is central to the ethical code of journalism, and 48 states have laws on the books preventing courts from ordering reporters to betraying the trust of their confidential sources. The federal government offers no such protections, however, and reporters are routinely threatened with jail time simply for doing their jobs–most recently James Risen of the New York Times.

The House’s action is a step in the right direction, and is a more promising development than other recently-proposed media shield bills, including the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 987), which is pending action in the Senate. S. 987 bill limits those protections to those who fit a very narrow and antiquated definition of a reporter–someone who has been recently employed at an established news outlet.

An effective media shield law would take into account that journalism is an act, not a profession, and protect all those who engage in the activities of journalism with the intent to publish–regardless of their employment status. This type of forward-thinking legislation would protect James Risen and every other truth-seeking reporter who builds a relationship with a confidential source, and allow for a stronger and more cohesive Fourth Estate.”

For media inquiries, please contact Michael Moroney at Michael.Moroney@FranklinCenterHQ.org or 571-385-0774

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Franklin Center Statement on SCOTUS Denial of James Risen’s Appeal

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

June 2, 2014
Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Press Contact: Michael Moroney
Michael.Moroney@franklincenterhq.org

 

Alexandria, Va—Today Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity made the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the appeal of New York Times reporter James Risen. Mr. Stverak also highlighted the need for an effective media shield law that protects all those committing journalistic acts with the intent to publish.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the appeal of New York Times reporter James Risen is yet another compelling reason for Congress to take action on an effective media shield law. Although Risen should be protected as a journalist under the First Amendment, it’s increasingly clear that the nation’s highest court will not protect journalists like Risen from harassment, subpoenas, and the threat of jail time, simply for doing their job and upholding the ethical standards of the profession.”

“A federal shield law would codify the confidential relationship between a reporter and a source, and prevent the government from forcing the reporter to disclose sources in a public court.”

“Unfortunately, the proposed media shield law presently under consideration in the U.S. Senate is an ineffectual, toothless piece of legislation that would only create arbitrary divisions within the reporting community.”

“The Free Flow of Information Act (S. 987) extends much-needed legal protections to journalists, but limits those protections to those who fit a very narrow and antiquated definition of a reporter–someone who has been recently employed at an established news outlet. These parameters may have worked in 1996, but today, a great deal of journalism is done online by independent publishers, and the proposed law would allow federal judges to exclude this entire class of reporters from legal protections.”

“A true media shield law would understand that journalism is an act, not a profession, and protect all those who engage in the activities of journalism with the intent to publish–regardless of their employment status. This type of forward-thinking legislation would protect James Risen and every other truth-seeking reporter who builds a relationship with a confidential source, and allow for a stronger and more cohesive Fourth Estate.”

For media inquiries, please contact Michael Moroney at Michael.Moroney@FranklinCenterHQ.org or 571-385-0774

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