It’s been a big year for us at The Center for Investigative Reporting. In 2013, we published collaborative investigations, won awards and launched public radio’s first investigative news show. As the year comes to a close, we reflect on some highlights of our reporting and the changes it has initiated.
Holding lawmakers accountable
At CIR, we aim to produce high-quality investigative journalism that has an impact. In some cases, our reporting has led to legislative action and policy changes.
- After years of reporting on how veterans endured long wait times for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs, reporter Aaron Glantz had some good news to share: The benefits backlog at the VA is going down.
- Even before Christina Jewett and Will Evans’ investigation about California’s Medi-Cal funding of drug rehabilitation clinics was broadcast on partner CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360," the Los Angeles County health director was calling for reforms. Soon after Rehab Racket was broadcast, California lawmakers called for a statewide audit and reform of the Medi-Cal rehab program.
- As a result of Ryan Gabrielson’s ongoing coverage of the failure of an internal police force to protect residents in California’s developmental centers for the disabled, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law. One ensures that residents of developmental centers and mental health hospitals receive medical attention if sexual abuse is suspected, and the other requires local law enforcement to participate in specialized training for interacting with the vulnerable populations at developmental centers.
- Rachael Bale’s investigation showed how the Border Patrol places some border crossers it captures in immigration centers so cold they are called "the freezers," or las hieleras, possibly violating individuals’ human rights. In response, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced a bill to ensure humane treatment at Customs and Border Protection facilities.
Filling the void
Rape in the Fields, a collaborative reporting effort bringing to light the sexual abuse that female agricultural workers, includes a documentary film, an animation, text stories and radio segments. Nearly every element has been produced in both English and Spanish.
After the story was published, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Monterey County district attorney’s office in California began using the reporting as an educational tool.
The affected agricultural worker communities – many of which are Spanish speaking – have held more than 20 independent screenings. And advocacy organizations are sharing the reporting with their base communities.
Given the demand for high-quality, Spanish-language investigative reporting, we are now increasing our efforts to produce investigations in Spanish, both independently and with partners.
Making data accessible
CIR uses big data sets to produce the majority of our stories, many of which are national in scope. The data takes months – sometimes years – to collect through public records requests and research.
What would happen, we wondered, if we made the data publicly available?
To answer this question, CIR built interactive maps to accompany our investigations that focused on veterans issues, the U.S.-Mexico border and nonprofits making these complex data sets easily accessible. These maps – or news apps – have been used by media outlets across the country to tell the national story in a local context, as well as by individuals who are interested in checking it out for themselves.
- Map: Veterans Affairs: Painkillers
- Map: Where is the veterans' backlog the worst?
- Which drugs are getting busted along the U.S.-Mexico border?
We also collaborated with the Tampa Bay Times on a news app: the 50 worst charities in America.
Providing information for youth empowerment
We were proud to see that one talented UCLA student– Sy Stokes– used CIR’s reporting about university officials spending money on luxury travel in a spoken-word production that went viral on YouTube and generated heated debate.
Both the creative use of CIR’s reporting and the enthusiastic audience response confirm that we need to continue with investigations that are relevant to a youth audience. In collaboration with Youth Speaks, the Off/Page Project continues to challenge young people to think critically about their communities by arming them with the facts.