States of despair

Note from the Center: What we're thinking and up to

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State of despair

Our core coverage of state politics has grown immensely as a part of John Dunbar’s Money & Politics team in recent years. Led by Kytja Weir, the state team does its own reporting as well as providing big data sets and resources for state house reporters around the country. This is a powerful 160-strong consortium — not dissimilar in some respects to the origins of our International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

This week the team was up covering the states races in Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Virginia. But it’s the months of coverage behind this that is probably most important, particularly the use of big data in the form of the CMAG advertising information, that really shows the value of long term commitment to this work, the “Ad Wars Tracker”.

It’s also the case that our reporter Liz Essley Whyte has “owned” the interesting side-story in Ohio about marijuana legalization which has led to significant investment there from marijuana groups. Her story led Time on that.

It’s these kinds of deeper media partnership that give our work reach far beyond our on sites and I am always grateful for the work our communications expert William Gray does on this. State Integrity is a bear and will spread far and wide.

Long-term impact

In terms of long-term populist and legislative impact it’s hard to beat yesterday’s anniversary of the ICIJ’s #LuxLeaks project which has triggered investigations, tax changes and the trials of whistleblowers in Europe.

In London outside the Treasury, and in Brussels outside the European Commission protesters demanded fairer taxes and the disclosure of evaders and blew whistles to mark the attempts to prosecute the whistleblowers behind the project.

Koch influence in universities

Dave Levinthal, one of our most visible “faces of the Center” on the Washington media, showed he is more than a face for TV with a big investigation last week into the influence of the Koch Brothers — and other billionaire philanthropists — on universities across the nation. We partnered with The Atlantic on the story and I thought Dave trod the heavily mined ground well to show what the Koch Bros expect in terms of syllabus changes and how that differs from some of the other donors such as the more liberally minded George Soros [whose Open Society Foundations support the Center.] I don’t believe anyone could have accused us of being anything other than even-handed though of course they did.

Dave, a master of the quick hit, also did an interesting piece this week on Twitter’s Political Action Committee and how it is trying to shake up the process of reporting on political donations.

CPI and ICIJ make out big with Editor & Publisher Awards

Four awards in the Editor & Publisher prizes this year went to the Center and the ICIJ.

It is another amazing indication of how powerful these organizations are and how we punch above our weight.

I was particularly pleased to see the Fatal Extraction project — built on the joint efforts of the ICIJ and the CPI — score another big prize.  I would love to see more projects like that combining the best of the two groups. Will Fitzgibbon, Eleanor Bell, and Chris Zubak-Skees did amazing work and had input from others to make it all come together. It is a wonderful experience and the numbers on it have been very strong and I am glad the risk was taken to do it that way. Cecille Schilis-Gallego, Kimberley Porteous and Suzana Gashi are also credited on the final page.

Chris also won an EPPY for his work on the 2014 election tracker which of course has been superseded now by even more remarkable work on the 2016 elections and the States.

Susan Ferriss won for her criminalizing kids package which has become even more current. The reward also credits Reveal, the Center for Investigative Reporting podcast and radio show with which Susan worked. The Reveal podcast and version of the story is here.

The fourth Eppy — for best collaborative/investigative reporting for a site with fewer than 1m Uus — was for the astounding and multi-award-winning #SwissLeaks project by the ICIJ.

I welcome any feedback on this note.

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