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Pro Publica

One of my professional highlights occurred before my formal career even started – as a high school newspaper reporter.  After some hard-core investigative work, my fellow “journalists” and I shined a huge spotlight on the farce that was being called school facility security.  (We finally admitted to the school principal at our 15th high school reunion that we might have stepped over the line just a bit when we broke into the school to prove just how easy it was.)

The point is, it was extremely personally rewarding to be at the center of uncovering the truth…and the result was systematic change that benefited the entire school community. 

This month, a philanthropic couple in California announced they would fund a bureau of 24 investigative journalists based in NY City.  Called appropriately “‘Pro Publica,” the staff will work under the direction of former WSJ managing editor Paul Steiger. The reporters will have license to pursue long-range stories that few news organizations have the stomach or budget to invest in. Once the stories are complete, they will be offered to existing media channels for publication.

Not surprisingly, the journalism community has greeted the announcement with mixed reaction. Will established and credible news organization actually run full length investigative pieces by a group of journalists other than their own?  What guarantees are there, if any, that the increasingly media saturated public will pay attention? Does Pro Publica risk luring much needed talent away from local media establishments to NY?  

 If local media establishments are no longer supporting this type of much-needed journalism, it seems this new approach to funding investigative reporting is a good alternative. But I hope our generous philanthropists will also find ways to support the careers of those dedicated to exposing their own local school facility security issue, be they local reporters committed to their own community or even the young high school reporter eager to compete for a Pulitzer.

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