Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Session Notes

Session Convenor: Bill Moushey

Session Reporter: Elise AckermanDiscussion

Participants: Nick Penniman,Bill Moushey, Kelly McBride, Laura Kessel, Karen Duffy, Ron Menchaca, Lou Ureneck,Sara Justicia Foll, Porter Bayne, Amy Woo


Nick Penniman, started American News Project, let’s take the Web seriously as a venue for broadcast journalism. Hired guys from CNN and Frontline, did long form investigative and quick hit muckraking stuff. He is now heading investigative work on the Huffington Post. The American News Project received money from The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy (SCMD).
Bill Moushey, Point Park, put city council president in prison (as well as lots of other people) now balancing the scales by getting people out. Said his students found DNA evidence in a horrible murder case, guy had done 20 years. DNA did not match. Guy thanked the students, “you are my heroes.”
Kelly McBride
Laura Kessel
Karen Duffy (Daytona Beach News Journal)
Ron Menchaca
Lou Ureneck, head of New England Investigative Center,
Sara Justicia Foll,
Porter Bayne
Amy Woo

Bill Moushey: Refers to AP study that people are not getting the in-depth news they are looking for, is there a place for long-form investigative reporting online?
Nick Penniman: talks about how Talking Points Memo broke about the Justice Department. Says the daily interaction shook out a lot of sources.
Kelly McBride: In the new environment for news, stories will break piece by piece.
Elise Ackerman, I don’t think the issue is whether stories are long or short but whether the information is well organized.
Karen Duffy: talks about a long murder story that was one of the best-read stories at the Daytona Beach News Journal.
Bill Moushey: Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, West Virginia University Scandal. They did not wait until they had the whole story. They had one story about discrepancies on one degree. and then took it from there. Is that the way it has to be done?
Ron Mechaca:  Investigation into state-owned school buses, decrepit, falling apart. Said that was done using the traditional approach. He compares that to a story about a project about superstore catching on fire and collapsing. We basically uncovered that the fire department was operating under procedures that led to death of nine fire fighters. The department didn’t have the equipment and expertise to fight a modern fire. Both was approaches were successful, but he thinks that the latter (breaking a story piece by piece) will be more successful going forward.
Bill Moushey: Big bang project versus serialized over time (how should investigative stories be presented)?
Nick Penniman: room for both. Engaging the audience is really important from a business perspective.
Bill Moushey: How do you think the information from a U.S. Attorney that got discriminated against made it to TPM?
Nick Penniman: “They were e-mailing him it was kind of a drip, drip, drip process.”
Bll Moushey: “In other words,  you see what is going on, and then you can feed the beast.”
Kelly McBride: “It starts with the presumption that the audience knows more than you do.”
Nick Penniman: “I was at the Washington Monthly and someone sent us all of Bill Bennett’s gambling receipts from Vegas.
Kelly McBride: Did Josh of TPM check the informaiton he got. …talking about how Mark Foley story broke. Lane Hudson’s post on the Huffington Post. And Brian Ross of ABC confirmed e-mail / IM had been written by Foley and put it on the blog.

We talk about risks and benefits of crowd sourcing. Lou Ureneck, head of New England Investigative Center, talks about putting in a system for checks and balances for the crowd.

Jay Young: Need for Triple AAA hotel for newspapers/new information sources.
Kelly McBride: “I think there is also the issue of getting to the right audience.”
Lori Rosolowsky: If none of the places you work for has the interest or resources to cover these issues the way we do. How do we get information we uncover covered by the mainstream media, example, elections official in bed with official who sold the equipment to the county.
Elise Ackerman: You don’t need the mainstream media.
Bill Moushey, I get calls everyday (with story tips). I’m going to want to know what the catch is. What you have to do is build street cred as a balanced organization.
Nick Penniman: Someone sent us conference call with JPMorgan, going to give out bonuses but call them retention awards.
Nick Penniman: should journalist organizations become more activist about their own content? To what extent do you mobilize your audience to create action around your journalism? For example, FISA vote.
Laura Kessel: Are you saying that we should do this? Example, young boy got shocked while waiting on line for bumper ride at County Fair and died a month later. It was a massive issue that came out. They had an 80 year old electrician who was responsible for wiring the rides. And we realized the inspection process for rides out our state was horrifying. Legislature created Gracen’s Law. It was pointless. We presented the issue. We polled. We waited a week to have the editorial come out. The comments on the Web site were astounding.
Jay Young: City of Altoona, Penn had a horrible blight problem. City boarding up homes. Altoona a city of 60,000 he mapped all the blighted homes. What is going on. He found another law antiblight ordinance in Wilmington, DE.
Ron Mechaca: Good investigative journalism proposes solutions. It shows how other communities are dealing with the same issues. A good investigative piece really is doing.
Linda Jue: Issue is a touchy one for mainstream journalists. How do you do it that doesn’t create a partisan tilt that becomes a barrier for people to be involved.
Nick Penniman: Is journalism a one-way street where we feed information to people or does journalism engage in reform.
Linda Jue: That is what Jay Rosen struggled with when he tried to do civic journalism.
Kelly McBride: If we were still making profits, I don’t think we would consider the issue.

Idea of community site that does fight for issues. If they have victories, then you have a true hub.

Nick Penniman: Investigative reporters have always been axe grinders. I just think we have to be open and honest about it.  If we are going to do a five-part series on mountain top mining it’s not because we want to encourage mountain top mining.
Bill Mouchey: Are you biased because the Open Society gives you money.
Linda Jue: There is a problem with foundations because they want you to support their agenda.
Kelly McBride: I think the audience is getting to the place where they pretty much presume that everyone has a bias.
Porter Bayne: I’ve got two competing statistics in my brain. Most people choose news sources on perception of convenience and objectivity.  One stat tells me people want to see their bias reflected in the news and the other says they want objectivity.
Kelly McBride, It’s possible that both are true. If I get information from you (Lori) that we are going to get new voting machines that suck. (If I know you have an agenda I might be skeptical of the information.
Linda Jue: There is a big issue, Where can people find credible information?
Nick Penniman: Joe Pulitzer had an agenda. Fight against plutocracy. ….etc. What the newspapers have failed to do is fight vociferously in favor of the public good. I picked up the Tampa Tribune (very little about the community, it was just death and meth) If there was more of an agenda within the newsrooms that people may pay more attention to local news organizations.

About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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