New site fights for investigative journalism
Some of our old colleagues at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have launched InvestigateWest to do investigative journalism focused broadly on the West Coast but on issues certainly of interest to us here in Seattle.
Calling itself an “investigative journalism studio,” InvestigateWest is edited by former P-I Assistant Managing Editor Rita Hibbard and is made up of many members of our old investigative team, before the paper laid off most of the staff.
The site also has two daily blogs – Dateline Earth, which focuses on environmental issues, and Western Exposure, which aggregates news about social justice, health and the environment from around the West.
According to a news release, the nonprofit will distribute its work online, in print and on radio and TV stations. InvestigateWest will distribute its multimedia content through individual partnerships with media organizations and through its own syndicated service.
“InvestigateWest is a new model of public service journalism that seeks to fill the void rapidly developing in investigative coverage,” said Hibbard, InvestigateWest’s executive director and editor, in a release. “Our goal is to produce journalism that empowers citizens and changes institutions. We will measure our success by the impact of our stories.”
Hibbard noted the recent closure of dailies in Denver, Tucson and Albuquerque and the loss of thousands of other jobs at remaining news organizations. “It’s a time of great challenge in the news industry,” she said. “But it’s also a time to be creative and try new approaches.”
Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) to conduct journalism for the public trust, InvestigateWest last week became a founding member of the nonprofit Investigative News Network aligning more than 25 investigative news organizations. Funding strategies, news distribution and administrative costs could be pooled among partners such as National Public Radio, Huffington Post, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and newer ventures such as the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in Madison.
InvestigateWest has received a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, in-kind contributions from major firms, including the K&L Gates law firm and Point B Solutions Group in Seattle and donations from individual donors, and is actively fundraising from individuals and foundations. Its journalists already are reporting a number of stories for which IWest is developing media partnerships and seeking funding. Those interested in making a tax-deductible donation can send donations to InvestigateWest at 600 N. 36th St., Suite 316, Seattle, WA 98103 or donate and become charter members online.
“Across the country, there has been a decline in newsroom staff and resources for investigative reporting,” Brant Houston, an InvestigateWest advisory board member and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois, said in the release. “InvestigateWest can help fill that growing gap of in-depth public service journalism. Endeavors like this are critical to the functioning of a democratic society.”
Vikki Porter, an InvestigateWest advisory board member and director of the Knight Digital Media Center, said in the release, “The news ecology is fragmenting, and the first thing that seems to be going in organizations is to spend money, time and thinking power on the issues that are really important to the communities they serve.
“New models are needed to keep the spirit of watchdog journalism alive. Despite what’s happening in the industry as a whole and in the profession as a whole, this is the perfect time for this kind of venture,” she said.
InvestigateWest staffers have won or been finalists for every significant investigative and narrative work, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Edgar A. Poe Award, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and the PEN literary award.
In addition to its core group of six journalists, InvestigateWest is establishing a network of correspondents throughout the West. These freelancers will serve as listening posts as well as producers of innovative, insightful journalism. In addition, a panel of nationally distinguished journalists has agreed to serve on the venture’s advisory board. InvestigateWest also has begun an internship program this summer with two journalism students.