Posts Tagged ‘Investigative journalism’

Attacking the Fifth Estate: Bloggers legally belittled

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

By Jason Stverak | Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

ALEXANDRIA – Bloggers in Oregon, watch out. That’s because this month an Oregon court ruled that bloggers do not have same protection as the “media.”

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New Investigative Watchdog Site Launched In Maine

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010


Maine now has a new Watchdog relentlessly working to detect and expose corruption in our elected and public officials. Lead by journalist Stephan Burklin, MaineWatchdog.org covers the local and state news in Maine. MaineWatchdog.org is an independent venture of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a non-profit organization committed to rigorous journalism.

“Stephan Burklin is a dedicated journalist who will turn MaineWatchdog.org into a must read news website for the state of Maine,” said Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center. “MaineWatchdog.org will provide accurate, nonpartisan, and thorough investigative pieces that will provide the people of Maine a better understanding of their government and their elected officials.”

MaineWatchdog.org is a journalistic endeavor promoting transparency and accountability at the state and local levels. MaineWatchdog.org provides in-depth investigative reporting in a non-partisan manner.

Stephan Burklin is an investigative reporter for MaineWatchdog.org.  He has worked for the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Berlin, Germany, the Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado, as well as for Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon.  His articles have been featured in The Oregonian and The Denver Post.  He graduated with honors from Wheaton College (IL).

MaineWatchdog.org is an independent initiative of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Founded in January of 2009, The Franklin Center is a nonpartisan organization that believes that new technology can advance the cause of transparency in government. The Franklin Center aims to educate, to advise and to train individuals and organizations from all backgrounds to become thorough, unbiased and responsible reporters well versed in new media techniques and journalistic integrity. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org

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For more information, please visit FranklinCenterHQ.org

Franklin Center Statement on Newspaper Web sites Growing Popularity

By
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a national leading organization on nonprofit journalism, released the following statement concerning a Newspaper National Network study that found the number of unique visitors to US newspaper websites is at an all-time high. From March to April 2010, the top 25 markets grew 10% reaching 83.7m. These visitors generated a total of more than 2 billion page views in April, up 24% from 1.6 billion page views in January.

“This study proves that journalism isn’t dead. Nor is the quest for news diminishing as the newspaper industry has struggled. And while newspapers lay off staff and fail to meet the needs of the public, it is now apparent that Americans are finding an alternative source to keep abreast on the news they care about.

The decline in traditional print media is not the result of failed journalism or lack of demand by citizens for local and state news, as this study clearly shows.  It is the result of media business leaders’ failure to adapt to new market realities. The historic for-profit news model is failing in print and broadcast.

Both small and large newspapers must turn to the internet to keep afloat. By utilizing technology and the internet, newspapers have the potential to extend their audience reach and create a community of loyal readers.”

For more information, please visit FranklinCenterHQ.org

About The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Franklin Center is a non-profit group dedicated to providing investigative reporters and non-profit organizations at the state and local level with the training, expertise and technical support necessary to pursue journalistic endeavors. By networking with state-based think tanks, local non-profits, and independent Watchdog reporters across the country, the Franklin Center works against the growing tide of mediocrity and bias in the media and punditry of alternative online sources.  The Franklin Center undertakes programs that promote investigative reporting and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence and abuse of public trust by elected officials. The Franklin Center is also a proud sponsor of Watchdog.org and Statehouse News Bureaus.

Future of Local News

By
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Journalism has taken a substantial hit in the last decade. According to The Nation, of the 60,000 print journalists employed in 2001, at least 10,000 have lost their jobs while newspaper circulation dropped 7%.  And an American Journalism Review study found that only 355 full-time newspaper reporters are still based in the nation’s state capitols and that 44 statehouses have fewer full-time reporters than they did six years ago.

The decline in employment of professional journalists by traditional news media is not the result of a failure of journalism or demand by citizens for local and state news.  It is the result of media business leaders’ failure to adapt to new market realities. The historic for-profit news model is failing in print, broadcast and if early revenue numbers hold, on the Web.

The gaping hole in local and state news has left many asking “Who Covers the Statehouse?” and “Where are all of the investigative journalists gone?”

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was established as a direct response to those questions and the overall growing mediocrity in the mainstream media.

The Franklin Center undertakes programs that promote journalism and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence, fraud, and taxpayer abuses by government officials at the state and local levels.  The Franklin Center networks and trains independent investigative reporters, journalists at state-based news organizations and think tanks, and watchdog groups and acts as a capacity builder providing resources, a national research capacity, and regular training seminars to our network of investigative journalists and Watchdog reporters.

Utilizing staff expertise and new media resources, the Franklin Center identifies and supports investigative journalists as they work to detect and expose corruption in our elected and public officials and to promote transparency and accountability at the state and local levels. The Franklin Center’s greatest asset is its affiliates’ local focus. Affiliates choose specific story targets, commit to using highly trained and professional citizens trained with journalistic skills, take a strategic approach to using and distributing resources and focus on tangible results. These and many other features are what set the Franklin Center apart from other groups. In short, the Franklin Center has turned the focus back to local and state issues, and their readers are better informed as a result.

The Franklin Center has two vital initiatives that support journalists and provide an atmosphere in which creating quality, unbiased news coverage is the top priority.

The first Franklin Center program is the Watchdog.org initiative, which began in September 2009. Watchdog.org is a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity.  In only seven months these state-based watchdog groups have demonstrated that online news websites can churn out investigative pieces instead of the usual Web punditry. Franklin Center’s Watchdogs are changing the conversation in the media, politics, and in households around the nation. Their articles are working to keep our government officials accountable to the people and keep their communities informed about their government.

The Watchdogs have reported on everything from national security to healthcare. A reporter at texaswatchdog.org recently discovered that the Department of Homeland Security lost nearly 1,000 computers in 2008, possibly endangering our national security. It was an investigative reporter in Hawaii that delved into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pricey holiday Hawaiian trip, which included an astonishing $10,000 nightly expense and with more than $21,000 in security cost to Hawaii taxpayers. A Watchdog in Michigan at Mackinac Center discovered that Michigan taxpayers were funding Michael Moore’s new anti-capitalism film.

The second initiative that Franklin Center sponsors is the Statehouse News Bureaus. Responding to the growing vacuum in state-based coverage of the happenings in state capitals, the Franklin Center is assisting journalists covering the daily activities of state government. By placing reporters in state capitals in several states so far, these reporters cover the daily happenings of government and hold elected and public officials accountable to the people.

The success of the statehouse news bureaus can be seen in the news coverage produced by Illinois Statehouse Bureau (IS). ISN tirelessly covers the happening at the Illinois Capitol and their daily news content is used by at least 50 Illinois radio stations every day and 12 daily Illinois newspapers. They also produce reports in audio and text format and do video reports several times a week. By maximizing its media formats, the Illinois Statehouse Bureau reaches its audience in every way possible.
Although the distant future of journalism as a business remains unclear, one thing for sure is that the Franklin Center and its affiliated programs will continue to serve as a critical asset to readers of today and tomorrow.  Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade, once said that “a newspaper in every home” was the “principle support of … morality” in civic life.  The decline of American newspapers might sadden Franklin, but the pursuit of greatness in journalism by organizations like the Franklin Center would without a doubt bring him pride.
If you are a reporter or a citizen journalist and are interested in getting involved in non-profit journalism, please email Info@FranklinCenterHQ.org. For more information on Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org.

Jason Stverak is the President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a leading journalism non-profit organization. The Franklin Center is dedicated to providing investigative reporters and non-profit organizations at the state and local level with training, expertise, and technical support. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org.

Franklin Center Reporter Awarded Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship

Monday, May 24th, 2010


Washington, DC – The Phillips Foundation announced the recipients of the 2010 Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program, which included Bill McMorris, a staff researcher and writer at the Franklin Center for Government and Public integrity. The Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program awards grants to working print and online journalists to undertake and complete projects of their own choosing, focusing on journalism supportive of American culture and a free society.

“Bill is a talented reporter who has proven to produce quality, unbiased, and accurate journalistic pieces. Bill’s terrific work on the phantom congressional district story was the driving force behind breaking that story to the mainstream media” said Jason Stverak President of the Franklin Center. “This award is a great accomplishment for Bill and we at Franklin Center are proud to have him on our staff.”

Bill McMorris’s fellowship title is “Fraud by any Other Name: Public Pension Neglect and the Coming Panic.”

McMorris is currently a staff researcher and writer at the Franklin Center. A print journalist by training, he has written for the Santa Barbara News-Press, National Review Online and the National Journalism Center. While in Santa Barbara, Mr. McMorris produced a wide range of investigative work. His on-site coverage of a November 2008 wildfire revealed that the city had lost nearly ten times more homes than the fire department initially told the public. He also investigated charges of power abuse against the city’s police chief, as well as pay increases at the District Attorney’s Office following a series of lay-offs. McMorris was educated at Cornell University where he majored in government and history.

The Phillips Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 to advance the cause of objective journalism. The Foundation established its journalism fellowship program to provide annual grants for journalism projects supportive of American culture and a free society. The fellowship program is open to print and online journalists with less than 10 years of professional experience. The Foundation seeks applicants who share its mission to advance constitutional principles, a democratic society, and a vibrant free enterprise system.

The Foundation awards $75,000 and $50,000 full-time fellowships and $25,000 part-time fellowships. The winners devote themselves to a yearlong writing project which they propose as part of their application.

About The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Franklin Center is a non-profit group dedicated to providing investigative reporters and non-profit organizations at the state and local level with the training, expertise and technical support necessary to pursue journalistic endeavors. By networking with state-based think tanks, local non-profits, and independent Watchdog reporters across the country, the Franklin Center works against the growing tide of mediocrity and bias in the media and punditry of alternative online sources.  The Franklin Center undertakes programs that promote investigative reporting and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence and abuse of public trust by elected officials. The Franklin Center is also a proud sponsor of Watchdog.org and Statehouse News Bureaus.

Celebrating World Press Freedom Day

By
Monday, May 3rd, 2010

By Jason Stverak

Today is World Press Freedom Day. It recognizes opportunities journalists have to tell stories of war-torn countries, poverty stricken towns and government-controlled areas. It is a day to celebrate the investigative reporters that changed the way news consumers look at the world. But for every journalist who has the opportunity to embed with a military brigade or investigate a corrupt politician there are reporters who right now are sitting behind bars for writing against their governments.

In today’s media world, prison is unfortunately a common punishment in several countries for reporters who strike a nerve in despots. According to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN), in 2009 officials jailed more than 136 journalists in different parts of the world. The greatest numbers were in China (24), Iran (23) and Cuba (22).

But the truly staggering statistics are found in those journalists who lost their lives while pursuing stories.  WAN reported that 99 journalists died on duty in 2009, including a staggering 37 killed in the Philippines. Somalia and Mexico are the second deadliest assignment for journalists, with nine reporters dying there in 2009. In total, 62 journalists died in Mexico over the last decade.

To commemorate World Press Freedom Day, media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders released their report of the 40 worst offenders against the freedom of the press.  Topping their list the leaders of China, Russia and Rwanda. North Korea’s Kim Jong-il and the head of Burma’s military government Than Shwe, are also on the list.

Many investigative journalists pay a high price to keep government accountable to the people. But the public’s right to know should never be a death sentence. Today, we applaud those reporters who risk their lives and safety to publish the stories that change the world we live in. Today, we honor all of these reporters killed on duty. And today, we encourage every reporter to relentlessly fight to find the truth.

About The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Franklin Center is a non-profit group dedicated to providing investigative reporters and non-profit organizations at the state and local level with the training, expertise and technical support necessary to pursue journalistic endeavors. By networking with state-based think tanks, local non-profits, and independent Watchdog reporters across the country, the Franklin Center works against the growing tide of mediocrity and bias in the media and punditry of alternative online sources.  The Franklin Center undertakes programs that promote investigative reporting and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence and abuse of public trust by elected officials. The Franklin Center is also a proud sponsor of Watchdog.org and Statehouse News Bureaus.

Reuters plans to expand investigative journalism efforts

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010


Posted by Robert Eisenhart

Editor Web Blog

A year after Reuters began investigative reporting the news agency announced its plans to increase its reporting efforts as a result of consumer demands. Jon Pompeo from the Business Insider’s The Wire, recently discussed Reuters investigative reporting efforts with Jim Impoco, the agency’s investigative reporting editor.

According to the agency’s online news editor, Keith McCallister, reader’s have been “eating [investigative journalism stories] up.” McCallister stated that the investigative stories are read more frequently than any of the agency’s other articles by a factor of 10.

Read More

Resource Bank Provides Lessons from Think Tanks Doing Journalism

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

InsiderOnline Blog: April 2010

Over the past several years, quite a few state-based free market think tanks have started doing investigative journalism. These organizations have decided that exposing government malfeasance is an important part of their mission of keeping big government in check. And in many cases, they’re also filling a void in local reporting created by the closure or downsizing of traditional media outlets.

On Thursday in Miami, Resource Bank featured a panel on think tanks doing journalism. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity has played on important role in helping think tanks establish themselves as outlets for quality journalism. Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center, moderated the panel. The panel also featured Clint Brewer, editor of the Tennessee Center for Public Policy Research’s TennesseeWatchdog.org; Steven Greenhut, editor in chief of the Pacific Research Institute’s CalWatchdog.com; and Kathy Hoekstra, who produces investigative videos for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy Research and writes articles for the Center’s Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Each of the outlets represented on the panel have broken some big stories over the past year. In December, TennesseeWatchdog.org uncovered the secretive system of judicial accountability in Tennessee. It’s a system that in most cases prevents the public from knowing whether judges have even been punished. The report prompted the state Senate to hold hearings in January.

This month, CalWatchdog.org ran a six-part investigation of the Greenlining Institute, a leftwing community organizing group that specializes in shaking down private foundations to support their favored philanthropic causes. The series was co-published by the Washington Examiner.

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Franklin Center’s Take on ProPublica’s Pulitzer

By
Monday, April 19th, 2010

Franklin Center’s Take on ProPublica‘s Pulitzer

By Jason Stverak

CHICAGO (April 19, 2010) — ProPublica’s Pulitzer Prize win shows two things:

1. Nonprofit journalism organizations are producing quality, accurate, unbiased, real investigative pieces that are changing the way citizens get news;

2. Investigative journalism is not dead nor is its massive decline at traditional journalism outlets a sign of a waning interest by the public.

Investigative journalism, the most effective weapon of the press, all but disappeared from newsrooms. Many traditional newsrooms no longer have the staff or financial resources to send a reporter across town, let alone cross country, to investigate a story. As such newspapers are curbing reporters’ ability to spend the time and money to investigate difficult stories in addition to covering their daily beats.

The staggering statistics related to the decline of journalism jobs are signs of the changing nature of journalism. According to The Nation, of the 60,000 print journalists employed in 2001 at least 10,000 lost their jobs while newspaper circulation dropped 7 percent. An American Journalism Review study found that only 355 full-time newspaper reporters still cover state capitols and 44 statehouses have fewer full-time reporters than they did six years ago.

The journalism crisis became evident when newsrooms were forced to slash staff and resources as local and regional media pushed for higher margins only to see revenues flatten, then decline, then crash.

The combined power of the rise and sophistication of search engines like Google and the increased ease and accessibility of blogs and bloggers has provided a medium and market for this new generation of would-be news gathers. Along the way, niche publications launched and investigative work increasingly drifted to the faceless, zero-cost herd of anonymous online contributors. At least that was true on the national stage. In state capitals and on regional beats, the public continued to lean heavily on local reporting that spoke in terms they could understand and in a manner consistent with what they had come to expect and identify as dependable news.

Until relatively recently, these local papers had experienced staffs and the wherewithal to invest the time, energy and resources needed to chase down a story wherever and to whomever it led. And once they had a story in their hands, these papers had the confidence in themselves and their standing in the community to tell it fairly, objectively and without fear or favor. However, the recent degradation of the national, mainstream press gradually trickled down to its respected regional counterparts – depriving these outlets of financial and human capital in service of marshaling all available resources to save the leaders in their field.

But as traditional media outlets experienced dark days, it soon became apparent that the reanimation of journalism is in new online news ventures. The blogosphere is no longer just for the ranting ideologues. Increasingly, straight-shooting professional journalists are leaving newsrooms and joining online non-profit journalism organizations. These organizations give journalists the opportunity to investigate stories and reemerge as the legendary beat reporters from yesteryear. By decentralizing the news business, investigative reporters for online nonprofits are creating quality coverage of America’s most important issues.

ProPublica is a terrific example of the success that comes out of investigative nonprofits. Another success story is the emergence of a series of state-based watchdog groups that are reporting on local, investigative news around the country. These watchdogs are showing that online news websites can churn out substantive investigative pieces, which have included stories on voter fraud, taxpayer abuse, political corruption.

Watchdog.org, an initiative of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, is responsible for highlighting numerous important national, regional, state and local stories since its creation in September 2009. It was a citizen reporter in New Mexico who broke the “Phantom Congressional District” story about the chaos in tracking American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. A Watchdog in Texas recently discovered that the Department of Homeland Security lost nearly 1,000 computers in 2008. And it was a Watchdog in Nebraska who uncovered that their state’s educators were using taxpayer-funded credit cards to purchase a first class plane tickets to China for $11,000.

Nonprofit journalism organizations are providing journalists from all over the nation an opportunity to investigate and report on the stories that matter. By utilizing technology and the internet, nonprofit journalism organizations have the potential to extend their audience reach and create a community of loyal readers. With specific targets, commitment to using highly trained and professional journalists, and novel strategic approaches to using and distributing resources, online nonprofits are the future of journalism.

Jason Stverak is the President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a leading journalism non-profit organization. The Franklin Center is dedicated to providing investigative reporters and non-profit organizations at the state and local level with training, expertise, and technical support. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org.

S.C. Policy Council Joins S.C. Press Association

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010


The S.C. Policy Council is celebrating another milestone.

The nonprofit, non-partisan organization committed to exposing government has been accepted as an associate member of the S.C. Press Association.

The SCPA’s board of directors voted to add the Policy Council to its associate membership list, which includes the Associated Press, S.C. Lawyers Weekly and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.

The associate member status with the SCPA shows that the Policy Council’s news Web site, The Nerve is committed to core journalism principles.

The Nerve was launched in January and features investigative stories by a team of veteran reporters – Eric K. Ward, Rick Brundrett and Kevin Dietrich. The SCPA’s board of directors met last month and voted shortly after that to invite the Policy Council to become an associate member.

According to the SCPA’s Web site, www.scpress.org, the organization was established in 1856. It “represents and serves the daily and weekly newspapers of South Carolina.” Its mission is to “promote the welfare of the newspaper profession, elevate its standards and enlarge its usefulness and foster friendly relationships among its members.”

Members include the state’s 18 daily newspapers and more than 90 weeklies. The individual and associate members total more than 80. “Associate membership is limited to persons, firms, agencies, and associations found by the Executive Committee to be appropriate with furthering the objectives of the SCPA,” the SCPA Web site said.

The SCPA does not accept blogs as members. The Policy Council’s news Web site, The Nerve, offers its readers the opportunity to blog, but fundamentally it is an investigative journalism site dedicated to reporting on government at all levels, especially state government.

We believe that the SCPA’s acceptance of the Policy Council as an associate member recognizes that fact, and we thank the association board for it.

To learn more about the S.C. Policy Council and read more breaking stories in The Nerve, visit www.scpolicycouncil.com and www.thenerve.org.  It’s where government gets exposed.