Tuesday, January 11, 2011

[pima.nius] Building the non-profit road: Investigative lessons and models from other places

11:13 AM |

Building the non-profit road: Investigative lessons and models from other places

Pacific Media Centre

Friday, January 7, 2011

Birnbauer, Bill (2010). Building the non-profit road: Investigative lessons and models  from other places. Peer-reviewed abstract and talk published in the Conference Proceedings of the Media, Investigative Journalism and Technology Conference, AUT University, Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand, 4-5 December 2010. Full text copy available @http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/sites/default/files/file_bin/201101/Birnbauer_MIJT_proceedings_funding.pdf

In March 2009, the minnow-sized Voiceofsandiego.org found itself among the big hitters of American investigative journalism. The non-profit organisation established in 2005 with an editorial staff of 11 young reporters won the country's most prestigious award for internet-based investigative journalism. The Voiceofsandiego.org's reporters had exposed corrupt relationships between two government agencies and developers involving lucrative contracts and a clandestine bonus system.

The revelations resulted in the agencies' leaders being replaced, criminal investigations and reforms.  The award was presented by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. which in 1975 was the first non-profit journalism organisation established in the United States and whose goal is to improve the standard of investigative reporting.

In April 2010, the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting was awarded to both ThePhiladelphia Daily News and to ProPublica's Sheri Fink for a 13,000-word narrative reconstruction of the horrific choices facing medical staff at Memorial Hospital, New Orleans, in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Fink's two-year investigation, also published in The New York Times Magazine, showed that health professionals deliberately injected several patients with lethal drugs.

What ProPublica, Voiceofsandiego.org and 45 other US-based investigative reporting centres have in common is that they are supported by wealthy philanthropic foundations and contributions from "mum and dad'' Americans who might donate as little as $US35.

Non-profit investigative reporting centres also have been established in more than 43 countries as diverse as Brazil, Armenia, Romania, Africa, Chile, England, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria and Serbia.

With traditional newsroom resources thinning due to budget and staffing constraints, two ideas are proposed to bolster the amount of in-depth reporting in Australia and New Zealand. Journalists and journalism educators should lobby politicians, especially the Australian independents and Greens, to press for tax deductibility for donations to investigative reporting centres and funds. 

Secondly, university journalism schools might establish and fund a centre that produces investigative journalism using supervised students across multiple campuses working on collaborative projects.

Bill Birnbauer is an investigative journalist and a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism and Australian Studies at Monash University, Melbourne.

MIJT: US non-profits 'breathe new life' into investigative journalism

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
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