Inequality drives our journalism

Note from the Center

Inequality is an underlying issue in much of what we cover, whether it is the contribution tax avoidance makes to global inequality uncovered by the Panama Papers or the growing erosion of the middle class in the United States, as exposed by much of our money-in-politics-led reporting.

Net access as a human right

One coverage area that has enabled us to link policy to inequality is access to broadband in the United States. Rather than look at it through a purely speed or net neutrality lens, Allan Holmes has written about the social and economic implications of poor U.S broadband quality and access. 

This week Allan launched a series – combined with an entirely new data set on the problem from Ben Wieder – showing how high-quality broadband availability mysteriously stops on the border of poorer suburbs across America. It’s a story built on reporting, a human narrative and importantly on data. The national perspective on the problem cannot be ignored if you look at the amazing national map of broadband access developed by Chris Zubak-Skees. I suspect that map, based on a new compilation of data described here by Ben, will become a definitive resource.

The video on the story by Eleanor Bell Fox is a strong exposition of the problem in a different medium.

Why do we care? Because, as one of the sources in the story says, access to broadband is now a necessity,  not a luxury.  “Internet access…is the civil rights issue of our time.” Huffington Post, our co-pubishing partner on the story recognized the importance of the piece with "front page" treatment.

The Broadband project is supported by the Ford Foundation,  whose president Darren Walker last year committed the organization to more strongly work to combat inequality worldwide. There is significant international interest in this entire area of broadband access with places like Estonia declaring it a human right and the United Nations debating it.

World Bank recognition and Panama Papers

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has rightly dominated these notes and the much of the world news agenda in recent weeks with the Panama Papers.

A story which keeps on giving though is the ICIJ investigation into World Bank policies that trigger displacement of millions around the world. A project with the Huffington Post, Evicted & Abandoned, led on our side by Michael Hudson and Sasha Chavkin, won the New York Press Club “Golden Keyboard” award — a couple of weeks after it also won the Whitman Bassow award at the Overseas Press Club.

On the Panama Papers it is worth noting that the New York Times and Washington Post are now officially inside the consortium working on the project as reported by the NiemanLab. In a note last week I commented on the release by the leaker of a manifesto for blowing the whistle on the avoidance and evasion.

This week the ICIJ launched what amounts to phase two of the project with a vast release of the underlying structures of the “Russian doll” company structures and the people behind them. It’s a massive undertaking and another huge credit to the work of the ICIJ data team led by Mar Cabra out of Spain. Read Marina Guevara Walker’s explanation.

Back in the USA

Executive Editor Gordon Witkin calls out members of the team:

Fred Schulte for a story on a GAO report that essentially confirmed Fred’s terrific Medicare Advantage stories. The pickup also underscored the power of Fred’s work, and the respect it commands in health-care world. The piece was reprinted by NPR’s SHOTS blog, and picked up by Kaiser Health News, POLITICO and STAT. Fred’s ongoing Medicare reporting also got a shout-out from the Washington Post.

More long hours and rich, quick-turnaround work from our federal politics team—John Dunbar, Dave LevinthalCarrie Levine and Michael Beckel —with assists from Chris Zubak-Skees and Jared Bennett. They crunched numbers from Kantar Media/CMAG and The Tracking Firm to provide a preview of the spending in the Indiana primary.

After the votes came in, they published a follow-up, which found that Ted Cruz and his allies spent about $10 per vote in Indiana (and lost), while Trump spent only about $1.50 for vote on ads in his wining effort. The story was co-published with NBC News. The piece was cited by AL.com.

Carrie Levine had a readable piece on Trump campaign counsel Don McGahn. We co-published it with the Huffington Post, Newsweek and the Atlantic City paper.

What we’re reading and thinking about

Public Integrity reporter Kristen Lombardi features in a passionate piece in the Huffington Post about a new book: Catholic Women Confront Their Church. Kristen was among the first to report on the scandal of Catholic priests in Boston when she was at the Phoenix — the subject that eventually became the film Spotlight.

I welcome feedback on this note.

Peter Bale, CEO 
The Center for Public Integrity,
@peterbale

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