We came. We saw. We talked. We argued. But when this week’s meeting at New York’s Pocantico Conference Center wrapped up Wednesday, the groundwork had been laid — we hope — for an unprecedented new nonprofit Investigative News Network.
We’ll admit it, this feels pretty exciting. In fact, the word “historic” was mentioned way more than once. But the devil is in the details — and that was mentioned even more times. So, before the nearly 40 people representing a few dozen investigative news organizations pat ourselves on the back too heartily, there’s lots of work to be done.
The size and scope of our “to do” list is rooted in the multiple challenges we face — some shared, some not. This new journalistic collaborative represents a rather disparate group. At some level, we’re all journalists, entrepreneurs, even dreamers. But after that, things get a bit complicated. Some of the groups at Pocantico — the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Investigative Reporting, National Public Radio, or the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University — are national in outlook. Others, like MinnPost and the Voice of San Diego, are more regional in scope and do many other things besides investigative reporting. Still others, like the Watchdog Institute or the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, are still getting their feet under them.
Do we all fit under one umbrella? We think the answer is yes. While we collaborate on some cracker-jack investigative pieces, we’ve also got to make sure our members can survive and thrive. “Sustainability” was perhaps the biggest topic over the past three days — as in, how do we pay for all this and keep the lights on? As the budding network moves forward, one top priority will be brainstorming how to raise revenue. We’ll also explore cooperating on administrative and “back office” functions, like web design, health insurance, and legal advice, to name just a few.
We’ll need some help with all that, so we’ll be looking to get started with a planning grant. And over the next few months, a steering committee will be responsible for helping turn our vision into a reality. The members of that committee are listed here.
Meanwhile, it’s on to the fun stuff — collaborating on aggressive watchdog reporting and jointly producing those making-powerful-institutions-accountable investigative projects. The declaration we issued at Pocantico says that part of our mission is to “foster the highest quality investigative journalism, and to hold those in power accountable, at the local, national and international levels.”
We hope you’ll agree that’s pretty important stuff, particularly in these troubled times for journalism. We’ll report back as the network develops and let you know how it’s going.