Announcing an INNovation Fund-backed Project


Today we're pleased to announce a new project that we're quite excited about.

We will be designing a new showcase for investigative journalism on the radio with Seattle NPR-affiliate KUOW. The project will kick off next month, with the first series expected later this year.

Seed money is being provided by an INNovation Fund grant. The INNovation Fund is a new initiative of the Investigative News Network and the Knight Foundation to support innovative projects in nonprofit news and public media. The first round of eight grants were announced this morning.

Thanks are also due to KUOW news director Cathy Duchamp and IW co-founder-turned-KUOW editor Carol Smith, both of whom have been brilliant and enthusiastic collaborators. We're thrilled at the opportunity to expand our partnership.

Investigative News Network: INNovation Fund Winners Announced


Despite Increasing Death Toll, Push Is On To Open More Public Roads to ATVs


For a disabled kid found abandoned on a street corner in China at age 4, Guo Biao was doing pretty well by last fall. After a decade hidden away in a Chinese orphanage, he had landed at the apple and cherry farm run by Dwayne and Sherri Bowman near Zillah, a farming community in central Washington.

Finally. A family. And also a new name: Zeke Bowman. With only a second-grade education, the teen from China was welcomed by the devout Christian family. The Bowmans helped Zeke learn English. For the first time he got a hearing aid for his deformed ear.

“He was so thrilled to be here,” Sherri Bowman said.

And then last October, Zeke climbed aboard one of the Bowmans’ four all-terrain vehicles, just as he’d done many times before at the end of a day in the orchards. He headed down a two-lane country road called Lucy Lane. For reasons the Bowmans still ponder, he rear-ended a tractor and died that evening in the hospital.

ATV tragedies like this – on roads, rather than backcountry trails where ATVs are designed to go – are widespread and have increased in recent years. The latest U.S. figures indicate that ATV crashes kill more than 700 people and injure 100,000 others every year, with nearly two-thirds of the fatal accidents occurring on public or private roads.

The accidents keep happening even though all ATVs sold in the U.S. carry a warning label stating that the vehicles are not to be driven on the road. Their high center of gravity and low-pressure tires mean they’re likely to tip over or go out of control on pavement. What’s more, the vehicles aren’t held to federal safety standards for cars and trucks, such as the requirement for seat belts, even though they can reach highway speeds.

Washington ATV Fatalities in Four Charts


Since 2003, there have been 50 ATV fatalities in Washington and at least 151 serious injuries.

Here are what they look like, in four charts.

Related Article »

By Age


By Road Type


By Posted Speed


By Helmet Use


InvestigateWest receives $200K from Knight, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, and Bullitt Foundations


SEATTLE — InvestigateWest received a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and a $50,000 grant over two years from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Seattle nonprofit journalism studio announced on Monday. InvestigateWest also announced a new $50,000 grant from the Bullitt Foundation.

“More and more, the need for independent, public-interest journalism is being met by those with an interest and capacity to support this essential civic institution,” said InvestigateWest Executive Director Robert McClure.

“Since InvestigateWest’s founding almost five years ago we have repeatedly demonstrated how our reporting makes the Pacific Northwest a better place to live,” McClure added.

Nonprofit media is one of the fastest-growing sectors of American journalism, and it has made headlines in recent weeks. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, launched First Look Media to cover the NSA, political corruption and other topics. In New York, former hedge fund manager Neil Barsky announced plans for former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller to lead a 30-person newsroom on the American criminal justice system. Both projects are influenced by ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit founded in 2008 with money from billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler.

“Disruptive technologies have thrown investigative reporting into a maelstrom, and we are holding our collective breath while a new business model is being born.” said Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation. “Meanwhile, InvestigateWest has demonstrated courage, integrity, and meticulous attention to detail as it has pursued stories that would otherwise remain unreported. We are honored to be able to support its work.”

The Knight Foundation grant is part of its Local Media Initiative that aims to help nonprofit news organizations establish long-term sustainability.


Something new from InvestigateWest and QUEST


Photo courtesy of mkw87.

A quick announcement and an invitation: We recently started a project to make old news new again.

Every so often, you'll see a post from us over at QUEST, public broadcasting's award-winning series on science and sustainability. We dig into the science of our stories from over the years and look into the latest research.

Today our topic is coal tar.

Robert's first story about that gooey asphalt sealant led Washington to ban it. That was 2010 and it was the first state ban in the country. (Last year Minnesota joined Washington in passing a ban.) Yet every year about 85 million gallons of toxic waste known to promote cancer are still carefully painted across about 170 square miles of American cities and suburbs.

So please join us. We'll be over at QUEST today making some old news new.


KING 5 Investigators: Preschoolers Face Health Hazards at Day Care

Thursday night's newscast from our partners at KING 5 examined heath risks from traffic pollution that toddlers and preschoolers may face at day care. More than 100 child care facilities located dangerously close to a major road, InvestigateWest reported yesterday.


More than 100 Washington day cares dangerously close to pollution-clogged roadways

Kids 'N Us day care in south Everett borders on an off-ramp of Interstate 5.
Credit: KING 5

It’s a cruel fact of physiology: kids are the hardest-hit victims of air pollution. Pound for pound, children breathe more than adults, receiving a relatively bigger toxic dose delivered to their developing bodies. And the smaller the child, the bigger the impact. What makes an 8-year-old cough could make an infant stop breathing.

That science takes on particular significance in Washington, where 126 day cares are located beside major roads and where rules about where new facilities can open are not enforced. Researchers say air pollution from vehicle traffic can aggravate asthma, reduce lung function and boost school absenteeism, as well as promote cancer later in life and harm developing immune systems.

An additional 439 day cares sit within 500 feet of the state’s heaviest truck routes, a new analysis by InvestigateWest shows. The diesel fuel that powers these trucks can spew 100 to 200 times more soot than gasoline engines, and the exhaust is so toxic that the World Health Organization classifies it as a carcinogen.

Nationally, more than 11 million children under 5 are enrolled in regular child care.  In Washington, one-fourth of all toddlers and one-third of all preschoolers attend a licensed child care facility, according to a 2008 survey.

Joel Kaufman, director of University of Washington’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, has spent years studying the connection between traffic pollution and cardiovascular disease. He said the Northwest suffers from acutely low awareness of near-road pollution risks.

“We have a perception that air pollution isn’t a problem in this part of the country,” and on a regional scale that is mostly right, he said. “But lots of the places where kids spend their time are in high-pollution areas that aren’t reflected well by monitoring.”

Private fishing rights have 'unintended consequences' in rural Alaska

Kake mayor Henrich Kadake
Credit: Lee van der Voo/InvestigateWest

The third installment in our trilogy of fish stories by Lee van der Voo appears in the Dec. 9 issue of High Country News.

"KAKE, ALASKA — Henrich Kadake remembers when halibut was king in this mostly native outpost on the remote coast of Kupreanof Island, a hundred miles south of Juneau."

So begins Lee van der Voo's newest reporting on federal policies that created private fishing rights for the fisheries in the northern Pacific Ocean two decades ago. Those fishing rights, or quota, have restored the health of the fisheries and created an economic boon for the industry as a whole. Between 1994 and 2008, the last time it was assessed, the value of the halibut catch along Alaska's coast increased from $150 million to $245 million.

But there have been 'unintended consequences,' to use the words of the Pew Environment Group, a supporter of the quota system.

The fishing rights were supposed to stay in villages like Kake, a rural Alaskan outpost built on fishing. Instead, economic hardship and a spike in fuel prices has seen nearly 80 percent of Kake rights-holders sell to fishermen in larger towns and a dwindling local catch. Last year, Kake's share of the halibut catch dwindled to 64,053 pounds, from 277,256 pounds when the program began.

Now that private fishing rights — "catch-share" — have been established in 14 other U.S. fisheries, reformers are trying to blaze a trail of reform by creating nonprofits and setting up investment funds for rural communities. And in Kake, Mayor Kadake is trying to bring the fish back to town.

Read in High Country News (subscription req'd) »


Editor's note: Special thanks to the Fund for Investigative Journalism for underwriting the reporting costs for this story.