New pathways to collaboration

The winner of the 2010 Knight Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism plans to donate part of his prize winnings to InvestigateWest as a kickstart to a potential collaborative reporting project between his current employer and the regional investigative group he helped start.Lewis Kamb was an original founding member of InvestigateWest. With The News Tribune and other McClatchy newspapers now examining potential enterprise reporting partnerships, the timing is perfect for the idea to help foster such a collaborative effort, particularly with InvestigateWest.As former editor of the investigative team at the Seattle P-I, I edited the prize-winning chain saw scouting package. As a co-founder of InvestigateWest and executive director and editor, I’m thrilled and honored at the prospect of working  with Kamb and the The News Tribune in a future project.To my mind, such a collaboration would demonstrate how effectively the work of independent, nonprofit media can link the eyes and ears of news consumers with important, public service journalism. It amplifies the power and impact of  important, public service journalism in the current economic climate, a tough one for news organizations regionally and nationally. As InvestigateWest has demonstrated in the past, such partnerships can be exciting opportunities to make a difference.Kamb’s announcement comes at this year’s Knight-Risser Prize Symposium, “The Crisis in Environmental Watchdog Journalism,” to be held Nov. 17 at Stanford University. The symposium, which annually seeks to forge active collaborative links between environmental research, education, journalism, and policy-making, will examine the state of environmental watchdog journalism amid the crisis in the news industry.

Public trust? An old fashioned idea whose time has come (again)

Seattle's CityClub is putting out the word — the nonprofit, non-partisan leadership building organization wants community members to come together to discuss the theme "public trust."CityClub points out that a  recent Pew Research Centersurvey finds a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government – a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials. CityClub is doing its part to facilitate discussion around the topic during its 2010 Community Matters Campaign. The organization is inviting community members to host a Community Dialogue with friends or colleagues about public trust. To learn more about the campaign and how to get involved, contact CityClub and join the conversation.With the Tea Party tearing apart the Republican establishment, the Democrats cowering on the sidelines and an ugly campaign season in offing, why not become part of the solution? Can't we all just get along? Let's give it a try.

Cruise ship story another successful launch for InvestigateWest

InvestigateWest is pleased to launch another new venture this week with 12 media partners and Spot.us, the grassroots journalism organization that brings community dollars to journalism that matters.IW had a good idea for a story that needed doing – taking a hard look at the billions of dollars that a popular form of vacationing pumps into local economies and asking just how green is that spending? The irony is that this economy depends on locations like Washington state, Alaska and British Columbia, with pristine waters and lush, green environmentally appealing forests and mountains that draw tourists. But if those tourism dollars do damage to that very same environment, is it worth supporting? Those are the questions that InvestigateWest and reporter Lee van der Voo set out to answer.

Investigative journalism matters, and InvestigateWest is part of the solution

The Investigative Reporters and Editors annual conference is always a professional high point of the year  – a time to connect with colleagues who are doing some of the best work and hear about the newest and most cutting edge developments that promise to push our craft out to new audiences.IRE 2010 wrapped up Sunday in Las Vegas. It celebrated amazing work, from the big guns — The New York Times' multi-part and incredibly detailed look at water pollution across America, to the local – our own contributing writer Lee van der Voo's account  in the Lake Oswego Review of corruption in the Lake Oswego (OR) police department. Click here to read that report, called Crossing the Line. In between was coverage of how America handles its returning civilian army, mortgage fraud, church abuse, politicians' expense accounts and Mexican drug cartels. All terrific stuff. And let me note here that Lee along with InvestigateWest's Carol Smith wrote InvestigateWest's outstanding report on sexual assault on college campuses and who is writing InvestigateWest's piece on cruise ship tourism that you see described just to the right of this blog.Vivian Schiller of National Public Radio gave the keynote address Saturday, and underscored what for me was a centerpiece of this year's IRE conference — the role of nonprofit,  investigative reporting centers like InvestigateWest. They are, she said, the future of investigative news, and she urged collaborative efforts between and among the centers large and small and their for-profit colleagues. She spoke of NPR's increased investigative efforts and described non-profit investigative journalism as "catnip for funders" because of the crucial, public service role it plays.

Audio, video, photo and text: when to use what?

The Knight Digital Media Center's trainers Jerry Monti and Len De Groot shared some tips today about how to tell a story in a multimedia world. I'll be here at UC Berkeley for a week and will pass along their tips and sites as they come along.For me, this morning's biggest takeaway is that no story has to be told in one way: text and photos and audio and video and graphics can all benefit from each other. "We're not looking for exclusivity" of storytelling method, but rather "for dominance," Monti said. "How does that story want to be told?"Finding the answer can help you be strategic enough to streamline your workflow. Calling the web "a lean forward medium," Monti said that audio works to capture personality and immediacy and can places the listener may not be able to visit themselves. "On a slideshow, audio can drive the story," he said. Photos, though, provide an opportunity to reflect and can compel people to linger on a subject. Photos can act as a punch in a gut, calling to life a moment and, with it, eliciting empathy and emotion.Images can provoke reactions that can cause change; the publication of the Abu Ghraib photos provide a compelling example of how publication of images can change policy more than the fact of what those images capture. Video works to take you there and "capture that moment that nothing else can: humor, motion, and interaction," Monti said. "Video is OK for facts, but it’s really for juice so you can leave the facts for the easier to digest piece” — the text. Text provides that backbone of analysis, framing, context and facts and can do so with emotion and efficiency for both breaking news and in-depth, investigative work.

Are you a closet entrepreneur? InvestigateWest editor helps you decide

Wow, I'm on 'the road to Vegas.'That's where John Ensslin put me when he launched his blog on programming for this year's Society of Professional Journalists convention in Las Vegas. It's coming up in October, and I'm on the program with a presentation called, "Crap, my paper closed!"Ensslin is the legal affairs reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette, but he sure gets the subject, because he used to work for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, which closed a couple of short months before the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, my former employer. The closure of the P-I just over a year ago launched the founding InvestigateWest, an independent, nonprofit investigative journalism center serving the Pacific Northwest.His first blog is on my presentation, and you can read it here. I'm flattered John wanted to write about my experience, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with more folks at SPJ.So far, InvestigateWest has released some important stories on issues like toxic parking lot sealants and campus sexual assault, and we've got several more nearing completion. Our staff is hard at work on stories that will surprise you, and make you happy that journalists are still there working to keep corporate and governmental institutions accountable. But I can tell you that it takes courage and blind faith some days to be out there doing what we're doing in a news industry undergoing as much upheaval and transition as this one. But the change brings opportunity and a chance to try new approaches to find new audiences. And that's why InvestigateWest is here.John asked a lot of good questions. I liked this one a lot, because it helps people identify whether they might be an entrepreneur at heart!

A Streamlined Resource for the Homeless

When a single mom with two children flees a domestic violence situation and has no money, no relatives, and no place to go, what does she do? She can contact 211.I am not sure many people know about this service, but the state manages a resource line that provides the names and contact information of organizations that assist the public. The resource directory is also online at http://www.resourcehouse.info/win211/.The 211 website search function for transitional housing in King County came up with 71 listings. A statewide search came up with 143 listings. The listings typically provide the phone number, hours, a link to the website, and the address. (Note: the addresses for domestic violence shelters are not listed.)When searching “domestic violence,” a page that narrows the search by topics appears. Topics include a multilingual shelter hotline, domestic violence support groups, counseling services for children affected by domestic violence, and much more.Overall, the website was fairly easy to use and you can search by county or area code, which is nice. You can even create an account to save searches. The second option is to call 211. The phone operator first prompts you to press one for English and two for Spanish. These two options make me wonder what non-English or Spanish-speaking refugees and immigrant populations do when first faced with a crisis situation.The voice-recorded operator then directs the caller to dial a number for H1N1 or census information. After wasting my valuable minutes, I am finally transferred to a real-life person. His name is Cory. I soon learn from Cory that the area code of the phone number a person used to dial 211 directs them to that specific county’s information line. For example, I live in Seattle, but I have a 360 area code, so I was automatically routed to the call center for Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties.

The Youngest Faces of Homelessness

The preschool children and toddlers playing at 1900 Rainier Avenue S need to nap, play, and learn just like every other kid. The only thing different about these children is that they might not know where they are going to sleep that night.But at the Early Learning program at the non-profit Wellspring Family Services, children at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness can receive specialized curriculum and emotional and social assessment.Because the experts of Wellspring Family Services know that children’s brains and future emotional behavior develops the most between the ages of one and five, they step in early to prevent future family homelessness and ensure stable lifestyles for children in crisis or transitional situations.But Wellspring does not stop with the children—in addition to housing assistance and eviction prevention programs, it offers men’s domestic violence groups, chemical dependency support, and at-home therapist visits to ensure that leaned behavioral patterns go home where they are most needed.Unlike other social services agencies and non-profits, Wellspring’s Baby Boutique, opened in 1995, offers one-stop shopping for entire familie. Parents can come in and outfit an entire family with clothes, toys for kids of all ages. It offers everything from toilets for potting training to prom dresses.The Baby Boutique, like other organizations such as ReWA and Consejo, often offers internships and work experience for clients who have succeeded in their programs and are more than ready and willing to give back to the community. The boutique is supported by mothers who have previously used the services and young adults directed from the YWCA’s workforce placement program.

Republican bill could mean ‘No Way’ for Genachowski’s ‘Third Way’

Federal Communications Commission Chairperson Julius Genachowski defended the FCC’s recently announced “Third Way” approach to regulating broadband Internet last week, two days after a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill that could handicap the agency's ability to ensure net neutrality.Some free-Internet advocates cheered when Genachowski unveiled his ‘Third Way’ plan— which subjects the transmission component of broadband Internet to Title II common-carrier service regulations— earlier this month.A response to an April 6 ruling by an appellate court that said the FCC lacked authorization to regulate the Internet service activities of Broadband giant Comcast, the ‘Third Way,’ Genachowski said, strikes a compromise between companies who want no Internet oversight and net neutrality advocates who say a laissez-faire Internet industry—which lets corporations call the shots on how fast, how accessible, and how costly broadband service will be—lends itself to digital injustice.“It is a win-win for consumers, Internet and technology companies, and broadband access providers,” said Markham Erickson, the executive director of the Open Internet Coalition (OIC) in a statement May 5, the eve of Genachowski’s announcement.