The Center for Investigative Reporting Launches California-Focused Initiative

The Center for Investigative Reporting Launches California-Focused Initiative
Innovative New Project Features Collaboration and Public Engagement

Berkeley, CA—The Center for Investigative Reporting is launching a new statewide reporting initiative to produce in-depth multimedia journalism specific to California and to engage the public on issues of critical importance to the state.

It will launch with a grant of $1.2 million over three years from The James Irvine Foundation. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation also has awarded a grant of $1.2 million for the same time period, primarily for reporting on education, which is in part a challenge grant to encourage other funders to support this new initiative.

The project, a new department within CIR, will combine the experience and resources of CIR, the oldest nonprofit investigative reporting organization in the country, and the skills and resources of the California Media Collaborative, established to devise new strategies to improve coverage of key statewide issues.

Targeting regional and statewide journalism offers a solution to the crisis in journalism. The project will serve as a watchdog for government and powerful institutions, fulfilling the core mandate of CIR. It will partner with existing news organizations, journalism schools and other institutions to develop innovative ways to inform and engage Californians on issues that affect them in their communities and in their daily lives.

“The turmoil in the news industry has had the greatest impact on local and regional news organizations. Their ability to produce investigative and in-depth reporting is becoming more difficult every day. We will monitor government, track private interests and reveal abuses that threaten our democracy,” said Robert J. Rosenthal, CIR’s executive director, and former managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rosenthal, who will have overall responsibility for the project, added, “We will hire top journalistic talent to tell stories in new and creative ways and to distribute them throughout the state, to reach a wide and varied audience across multiple platforms.”

CIR is pleased to announce that Louis Freedberg will direct the project. Freedberg is founder and director of the California Media Collaborative, which was based at the Commonwealth Club of California, and a veteran journalist who was most recently on the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle.

”How the media cover California matters, arguably more than in any other state,” said Freedberg. “As newsrooms shrink in size, the media have less and less capacity to cover the innovations, institutions and ideas that have made California such a force in the nation and the world, as well as the multiple challenges clouding the state’s future. The need for a vibrant, watchdog press is as acute as ever. “

The project will cover key California issues, including education, the environment, immigration, state governance and public safety. A major focus will be on making statewide data accessible to journalists and the public, connecting the dots on particular issues between communities throughout the state. It also will emphasize “solutions-based” reporting, identifying ways that ordinary Californians, as well as policy makers, can address the issues covered. Social networking tools will encourage audience interaction and help communities solve problems and identify potential issues to be investigated.

“This effort holds considerable promise to develop a new model for coverage of state-level issues here and in other parts of the country,” said Kristi Kimball, program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. “We hope other funders will join us to ensure its success and maximize its impact on the state.”

CIR is also in discussion with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation about supporting the project because of Knight’s interest in experimental new investigative reporting models.

CIR will hire an editorial director and additional reporting staff and will make further announcements about collaborations with media outlets and other partners in the near future. Visit www.centerforinvestigativereporting.org for information, including job descriptions.

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