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Members share how IRE opens doors for investigative journalism

Contribute to the future of investigative journalism

Investigative Reporters and Editors opens doors for investigative journalism.

While we serve more than 5,300 members of IRE, the nonprofit also works to advance investigative reporting standards in newsrooms around the world through numerous educational initiatives. Together, these efforts ultimately benefit society at large through a more informed public and greater accountability from forces of wealth and power.

The ways that IRE “opens doors” takes many forms. To close out 2022 with our end-of-year giving campaign, we will spotlight eight different IRE members who can speak to a different door that IRE helped open in their work as reporters and editors.

Your support will help IRE continue to open doors for investigative journalism. Please consider donating online at ire.org/donate or by texting “4IRE” to 41444.


#IREOpensDoors

IRE opens doors for sunshine,

by empowering journalists with tools to reveal public information hidden from view.

Gunita Singh is a staff attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press where she works on litigation, policy, and amicus work, primarily around state and federal freedom of information laws while also helping reporters and news organizations with records requests.


Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Gunita Singh by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

“Working with IRE has been so meaningful, just knowing that we are getting those resources into the hands of investigative reporters who have such a pressing need to get information and records and documents from government agencies.”
- Gunita Singh

IRE opens doors for accountability,

by facilitating the important watchdog role of the press and exposing corruption.

Tony Plohetski is an award-winning journalist whose work spans print, television and digital media. A veteran investigative reporter at the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE, he obtained surveillance footage from the Uvalde elementary school massacre that contradicted the official police narrative and proved failures in response to the gunman.


Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Tony Plohetski by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

“Oftentimes, these are ongoing investigations or ongoing stories where you have to keep moving forward in the face of backlash (…) The most important things that I've gotten from IRE are just those resources and that level of support — people who can cheer you on during the course of your watchdog or investigative reporting.”
- Tony Plohetski 

IRE opens doors for training,

with bootcamps, master classes, newsroom visits and more.

Alexandra Kanik is the data visualization editor for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. A longtime NICAR teacher, she is an exceptional educator and advocate for journalist training. Kanik brings numbers to life — and wants to help others do the same.


Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Alexandra Kanik by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

"To really understand the nuance of code and how to work with data as it pertains to journalism, I had to go elsewhere; I had to go outside of my organization (…) I never would have been able to get there, to learn how to work with data had it not been for IRE.” 
- Alexandra Kanik

IRE opens doors for networking,

with peers at conferences, in our listservs, conferences and via other platforms.

Mc Nelly Torres is an editor at the Center for Public Integrity and the 2022 Gwen Ifill Award winner. She was the first Latina elected to IRE’s board of directors and frequently speaks at IRE conferences and training events. Catch up with her (if you can) for a selfie at one of IRE’s upcoming conferences!


Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Mc Nelly Torres by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

“We all get together, we learn about each other and then we go home and we deploy that knowledge. And that creates really good investigative journalism.”
- Mc Nelly Torres 

IRE opens doors for careers,

helping individual journalists to become better and advance.

Matt Wynn was a student worker at IRE while attending the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He left the investigative team at USA Today to establish the Nebraska Journalism Trust and Flatwater Free Press in 2021. His first two reporting hires? Both IRE members and former student workers.

Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Matt Wynn by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

"IRE is so vital to the highest calling of this industry. There is a lot of journalism that doesn’t matter and stuff that gets done in the name of journalism that doesn't matter. IRE almost uniquely trains people for the stuff that does."
- Matt Wynn

IRE opens doors for diversity,

growing representation for historically marginalized people and strengthening our profession.

Zahira Torres is the editor for the ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative unit, a first-of-its-kind collaboration to publish investigative reporting for and about Texas. Previously at the El Paso Times, she was the first Latina and second woman to serve as the newspaper’s editor in its more than 100-year history.


Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Zahira Torres by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

"It's not just about checking a box, it's about making sure that our journalists are truly reflective of the communities they serve."
- Zahira Torres

IRE opens doors for equity,

with opportunities for journalists from diverse backgrounds to advance in careers and newsrooms while also pushing for equity in society through investigative reporting.

Willoughby Mariano is an investigative reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she focuses on housing and criminal justice issues. She was president of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Atlanta chapter and chaired the national AAJA convention in 2019.

Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Willoughby Mariano by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

"It is giving young investigative reporters, who look a little bit more like me – who are not white – the opportunity to not only learn the tools of the trade, but to not feel so lonely in the craft."
- Willoughby Mariano

IRE opens doors for leadership,

elevating and empowering current and future newsroom leaders, editors and mentors.

Zaneta Lowe is an award-winning anchor and investigative journalist at News Channel 3 WREG-TV in Memphis. On top of her work mentoring colleagues in her own newsroom, she has mentored younger IRE members at conferences and currently serves on the regional planning committee for NICAR23.

Opening Doors Video Testimonials - Zaneta Lowe by Gwen Ragno and Matt McCabe

"Being a newsroom leader is second nature. It's something that I feel is part of my job, literally, to share information, share the knowledge that I gain, and to help younger reporters."
- Zaneta Lowe

Thanks to the IRE members featured in this end-of-year campaign. Thanks also to every single member of IRE for your important investigative work. Finally, thanks for your donation to open doors for investigative journalism. Your contribution will go toward supporting fellowships and educational programming that will ensure a brighter future for all.  

Donations can be made at ire.org/donate or by texting “4IRE” to 41444.

San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn said he bought a charity decades ago for $25, called it the Basic Faith Foundation and used it to hold money from real estate deals.

Horn said he gave the interest to Christian missionaries in Mexico and South America.

inewsource dug into the Basic Faith Foundation and into Horn’s own description of how he used it. Five experts with national reputations in tax law and nonprofit management reviewed the transcript of inewsource’s interview with the supervisor, as well as the supporting documentation from state and federal agencies.

All reached the same conclusion: the way Horn used Basic Faith violated both state and federal laws, civilly and possibly criminally.

An audit of the North Lee County Water Association in Mississippi turned up widespread financial management problems, including violations of several state and federal laws, the Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS) reports.

The audit, which is likely “the most rigorous examination ever” of the nonprofit cooperative's financial records, comes on the heels of a $1.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Administration.

While copies of the audit are required to be available for public inspection, the water association did not comply with state law.

The association has been plagued with problems, according to the Daily Journal.

Rust-colored water and frequent boil notices have been part of North Lee’s water quality problems for years. In October 2011, all board members resigned amid allegations of misconduct and falsifying water reports. Former North Lee manager Dan Durham pleaded guilty in federal court in 2012 to falsifying the water reports and received probation.

Read the story here.

The Tampa Bay Times, in partnership with The Center for Investigative Reporting, has built an online tool to make charity research a little easier. Our “Charity Checker” website, for the first time, aggregates the ratings and reviews already offered by several of the nation’s most prominent watchdog organizations. With a simple search, you can see their results, all in one place, then click through to dig deeper into a charity through GuideStar, Charity Navigator, GreatNonprofits and the Better Business Bureau. The idea for Charity Checker grew out of our reporting on America’s Worst Charities, a yearlong investigation into charities that have chronically steered most of their donations to for-profit telemarketers. The full series can be found here: www.cironline.org/americasworstcharities or tampabay.com/charity.

Charities and other non-profits often try to keep their losses quiet to avoid spooking donors, but a Washington Post investigation by Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty used a new IRS tax return checkbox to find more than 1,000 organizations that reported significant diversions of assets. The Post’s online database is being used by news organizations around the country (and abroad) to report on charities in their area that were victimized.

Facing Foreclosure: Oklahoma's mortgage settlement program benefits attorneys | Tulsa World
"So far, the largest financial beneficiary of Oklahoma's mortgage settlement program is a young attorney who used a system of vouchers and possibly a family connection to acquire dozens of clients."

Shocking cost investigation: Utility middle men charge renters inflated prices | Columbus Dispatch
"A 10-month investigation by The Dispatch found that residents pay markups of 5 percent to 40 percent when their landlords enter into contracts with certain submeter companies. If the customer fails to pay, the companies sometimes resort to collection tactics that would be illegal for regulated utilities, including shutting off heat in winter and even eviction."

South Austin pastor lives lavishly while West Side project languishes | Chicago Tribune
“In a rolling investigation, Chicago Tribune reporters David Jackson and Gary Marx examine government's haphazard efforts to assist one of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods. Tracing where the money goes, their latest installment how a politically-connected pastor lives in a lavish suburban mansion while some tenants in his apartment buildings endure substandard conditions and go without heat.”

New reports fuel debate of whether Lisa Steed arrested innocent drivers | Salt Lake Tribune
“This month, UHP provided The Tribune with more documents about Steed, including the Winward review and the internal affairs investigation undertaken before her firing last year. In the internal affairs investigation, UHP found prosecutors who had received complaints about the former trooper of the year, but some of those same prosecutors also praised Steed’s work.”

Facing lawsuits over deadly asbestos, paper giant launched secretive research program | The Center for Public Integrity
“Named in more than 60,000 legal claims, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific sought salvation in a secret research program it launched in hopes of exonerating its product as a carcinogen, court records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show.”

Wisconsin Supreme Court justices tend to favor attorney donors | WisconsinWatch
“Justices have the option of recusing themselves from cases involving donor attorneys but have rarely stepped aside, remaining involved in nearly 98 percent of such cases, the Center found.”

Booming rental market makes it easier for neglectful landlords to ignore substandard living conditions | Austin American-Statesman
“A wide range of involved parties — City Council members, city Code Compliance officials, tenant advocates and real estate industry groups — agree that Austin’s real estate boom has made it possible for a subset of “bad actors” among rental property owners to ignore substandard conditions and tenants’ complaints. One indicator of the scope of the problem — code complaints and violations at rental properties — has exploded in recent years.”

$1,100 an hour? Part-time service at little agencies means big bucks and benefits for politicians | San Jose Mercury News
“Even the elected officials who benefit were surprised by the hefty hourly rates, which this newspaper calculated through an analysis of government meeting minutes and the Bay Area News Group's public salary database.”

Ivy Tech, DNR emails expose favors between officials, raunchy jokes, nude pictures | Indianapolis Star
“The emails — which featured jokes about erectile dysfunction and breast size, and pictures that compared naked women to various animals — appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Ivy Tech’s sexual harassment policy. Yet they were allowed to continue for at least six months before administrators asked Walkup to cease sometime this year.”

Research stalls on dangers of military burn pits | Democrat and Chronicle
“Thousands of returning veterans and civilians are now attributing myriad symptoms — respiratory problems, neurological disorders, cancers and ALS — to exposure to the burn pits, which were located at dozens of bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Dozens of Georgia children die despite state intervention | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Epic failures by Georgia’s child welfare system have given the state one of the nation’s highest rates of death by abuse and neglect, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.”

Ted Cruz Failed To Disclose Ties To Caribbean Holding Company | Time Swampland
“Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz potentially violated ethics rules by failing to publicly disclose his financial relationship with a Caribbean-based holding company during the 2012 campaign, a review of financial disclosure and company documents by TIME shows.”

GW misrepresented admissions and financial aid policy for years | The GW Hatchet
George Washington University admitted publicly for the first time Friday that it puts hundreds of undergraduate applicants on its waitlist each year because they cannot pay GW's tuition.

“The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year identifying the 50 worst charities in America based on the money they paid to professional solicitation companies over the past decade. Copilevitz & Canter has represented nearly three-quarters of them, as well as most of their for-profit telemarketers and direct mail companies.”

Ryan Gabrielson of The Center for Investigative Reporting reports that "California regulators routinely have conducted cursory and indifferent investigations into suspected violence and misconduct committed by hundreds of nursing assistants and in-home health aides – putting the elderly, sick and disabled at risk over the past decade."

In two stories published yesterday, Gabrielson's examines how and why these cases are dismissed and details the case of an edlerly woman whose suspicious death was largely ignored by state regulators.

For community service and corrective classes, San Diego law enforcement has sent defendants to organizations like the Corrective Behavior Institute for community service. In doing so, it has "sent people who haven’t followed the rules to a nonprofit that hasn’t followed them either," according to an investigation by the Voice of San Diego, which found shoddy record keeping, financial red flags and poor internal oversight at the organization at the Corrective Behavior Institute.

“Six nonprofit groups arose on the Bering Sea shore, and they have invested mightily in ships, real estate and processing plants. Over two decades, the groups amassed a combined net worth of $785 million. But the results on the ground, in rural community and economic development, have been deeply uneven, and nonexistent for many people who still gaze out to the blinking lights of the factory ships and wonder what happened," reports Investigate West.

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