June 14, 2010

Investigative journalism matters, and InvestigateWest is part of the solution

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The Investigative Reporters and Editors annual conference is always a professional high point of the year  – a time to connect with colleagues who are doing some of the best work and hear about the newest and most cutting edge developments that promise to push our craft out to new audiences.

IRE 2010 wrapped up Sunday in Las Vegas. It celebrated amazing work, from the big guns — The New York Times' multi-part and incredibly detailed look at water pollution across America, to the local – our own contributing writer Lee van der Voo's account  in the Lake Oswego Review of corruption in the Lake Oswego (OR) police department. Click here to read that report, called Crossing the Line. In between was coverage of how America handles its returning civilian army, mortgage fraud, church abuse, politicians' expense accounts and Mexican drug cartels. All terrific stuff. And let me note here that Lee along with InvestigateWest's Carol Smith wrote InvestigateWest's outstanding report on sexual assault on college campuses and who is writing InvestigateWest's piece on cruise ship tourism that you see described just to the right of this blog.

Vivian Schiller of National Public Radio gave the keynote address Saturday, and underscored what for me was a centerpiece of this year's IRE conference — the role of nonprofit,  investigative reporting centers like InvestigateWest. They are, she said, the future of investigative news, and she urged collaborative efforts between and among the centers large and small and their for-profit colleagues. She spoke of NPR's increased investigative efforts and described non-profit investigative journalism as "catnip for funders" because of the crucial, public service role it plays.

Interesting segue. I spoke on a couple panels during the conference, including one on generating revenue and another on challenges and opportunities facing centers such as ours. As a regional, independent player, I can tell you that raising funds is not easy. But InvestigateWest is doing it, and we're having success because funders and individual donors and media partners recognize the need for vital regional journalism to keep communities strong and healthy. We have a talented team of journalists capable of producing content that makes a difference, like the cruise ship story and others. Stay tuned to this space as these stories are completed and released with media partners.

Appearing on the panel with me were several directors of nonprofit investigative news centers from around the country, who are doing work similar to what InvestigateWest is doing  — Laura Frank, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Investivative News Network in Denver, Andy Hall, director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and Trent Seibert of Texas Watchdog. They're all doing terrific work that is important to their communities, covering stories that wouldn't otherwise be told. Left to right are Hall, Hibbard and Seibert. (Photo courtesy of Flikr by Palewire)

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