Wow. We never asked for this, never expected it. But we’re so happy to be bringing you news of our exciting new way of committing journalism and boosting civic engagement in our society.
It was exactly six months ago today, at 5:01 p.m. on Jan. 8, when I picked up the phone at my desk at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to hear a familiar source from the Environmental Protection Agency ask, “Robert, what is happening with your paper?” I trotted to the TV monitors to learn our paper’s future was very much in doubt.
At noon the next day a corporate muckety-muck from New York marched into the newsroom to unabashedly inform us the paper was “for sale,” and that if no buyer was found we would soon stop printing the newspaper. That was Friday. By 10 a.m. the next Monday, a few of us were figuring out how we could keep doing this work – the journalism that sustains our democracy.
A blurry and head-spinning half a year later, we’re launching InvestigateWest, a journalism studio focused on the environment, public health and social justice issues in western North America. We are out to break stories that inform the public, get citizens involved in helping us report those stories, and educate a new generation of journalists. We want to remake the mold of journalism, as has been necessary a few times before in our republic’s history – and which proved crucial to our success as a democracy.
Setting up a non-profit corporation was never something I thought I’d have to do. It’s been a huge education.
While the core of our start-up team worked at the Seattle P-I, we have been working hard to learn how to present our stories across news-delivery platforms. We’re starting to work with radio and television journalists. We already had a head start on the internet because the P-I, led by InvestigateWest executive director Rita Hibbard, had switched our focus from dead-tree to Web-first.
You are a huge part of what we’re up to. We need your support. I mean that in the financial sense, sure. The way we are out to make this a sustainable venture, financially, is membership contributions. But we want much more than that from you. We want your ideas, your energy, your gumption and, yes, your criticism.
This website is not our primary product for the world at large. We’ll be distributing through established and perhaps soon-to-be-established news outlets. This website is primarily for you, the person for whom the issues we are covering resonate.
We want this to be a forum where you can exchange ideas with others and make plans for how to bring about change. That’s InvestigateWest’s primary mission: change-making journalism. Change only happens when citizens demand it.
Our blogs, Dateline Earth and Western Exposure, are the beginning of a conversation with you and with like-minded citizens who want to right wrongs and improve this place we love. Please come back often.
We’ll have updates on environment, public health and social justice issues around the West on Western Exposure.
Dateline Earth is a new rendition of the blog produced by me and Lisa Stiffler, the P-I’s other environment reporter, for several years before the paper stopped publishing. As the name suggests, it will focus on the environment at large, globally, and you’ll probably notice a pretty heavy emphasis on the issue of the century, climate change. (Remember that noon announcement by the corporate muckety-muck back in January? By 4 p.m. that day I had secured the domain name datelineearth.org, and you’ll soon be able to go there to find the new Dateline Earth.)
That’s what we’re thinking for now, anyway. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our new venture. Even better, please make your way over to the membership page and sign up as a charter member. Why? Well, as my e-mail signoff now says: “InvestigateWest. Because democracy depends on journalism.”