How one paper filed a FOIA request in Michigan—and got sued by the county

By Jonathan Peters, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on August 2, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. Michigan’s primary elections, taking place today, may offer few competitive races. But one of them has offered a look at an unusual type of legal action—one in which a government entity sues a local media outlet in response…

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The public records process can be messy. Muckrock hopes to tidy it up.

By Chava Gourarie, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on July 14, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. The team behind Muckrock, a nonprofit that helps users navigate government records laws, launched a project today that aims to catalog all of the reasons state agencies give for rejecting public records requests. In doing so, they hope…

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A joint investigation complicates old narratives about public housing in Chicago

By Jackie Spinner, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on July 15, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. In the years since officials in Chicago began to demolishthe city’s troubled public housing projects, people in the region have become accustomed to hearing stories about where the former residents of Cabrini-Green, the Robert Taylor…

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A nonprofit and a daily dig deep into Chicago’s handling of police misconduct allegations

By Jackie Spinner, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on June 28, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. A pair of investigations that arrived just days apart last week—one from a small nonprofit, the other by a leading daily—brought new scrutiny to the way the city of Chicago handles allegations of police misconduct.…

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ProPublica finds a side effect of transparency — and is transparent about what it found

By Erica Berry Editor’s Note: This article first ran on May 16, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. From the possibility of terrorists using encrypted apps to file-sharing software co-opted for pirated media, the gatekeepers of new technology are constantly confronted with what to do when users approach their tools in unexpected or suspect…

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Will readers pay for local news? A digital startup in Tulsa bets that they will

By Deron Lee, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on April 26, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. About 500 subscribers over the course of eight months: If your reference point is Facebook-fueled pageviews, or even a typical newspaper’s print circulation, it might not sound like a lot. But for the leaders of The…

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The Center for Investigative Reporting bets it can change audio journalism—and itself

By David Uberti, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on April 25, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. In 2014, The Center for Investigative Reporting found itself at a crossroads: Cut much of its staff or create a full-time radio show. That was the choice then-editorial director Mark Katches says the organization faced. “The…

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As local coverage wanes, residents become self-taught watchdogs

By Miranda S. Spivack Editor’s Note: This article first ran on April 13, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. KEVIN HEMSTOCK, THE LONGTIME editor of the Kent County News, took his paper’s watchdog role literally. From his office in downtown Chestertown, Maryland, he had a sweeping view of High Street, the main thoroughfare. One February day…

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A big investigation of segregated schools gets big results

By Susannah Nesmith, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on April 13, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. It’s been eight months since the Tampa Bay Times rolled out an investigation into five elementary schools in Florida’s Pinellas County that had become “Failure Factories”—almost exclusively black, with some of the worst test scores in the…

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