News from FIJ

Grant recipient investigates government contract “piggybacking”

Over five months, PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, investigated the use of “piggybacking” contracts used by city and county governments in the region. The practice allows some government officials to circumvent contract vetting processes by “piggybacking” on contract requests already approved by other agencies. Doing so can save governments time and money by avoiding negotiation and approval steps. But critics say the practice has led to higher costs for taxpayers and leaves government agencies vulnerable to fraud.

According to data compiled by PublicSource from Pittsburgh’s contract repository, only 10 percent of 1,135 contracts that were active as of December 1, 2018, were actually negotiated by the city.

City Controller Michael Lamb told PublicSource, “When you just automatically jump to these cooperative contracts rather than doing a local competitive process, I think you’re cheating taxpayers.”

View of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh. Photo by Kat Procyk

[FIJ thanks the Park Foundation and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

 

FIJ Awards Eight Grants in Latest Round

The Board of Directors of the Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) has awarded $67,810 for eight grants to nine investigative journalists in its most recent round of funding.

The grants will help investigative reporters cover the costs of reporting work, such as travel, document fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

The grant recipients are:

Sylvia Varnham O’Regan & Maddy Crowell, New York-based journalists

Naveena Sadasivam, a journalist based in Austin, Texas

David Armstrong, of the Georgia News Lab in Kennesaw, Georgia

Burt Glass, a journalist from Boston

Kira Zalan, a freelance reporter from Washington, D.C.

Marc Perrusquia, a journalist based in Bartlett, Tennessee

Victoria Mckenzie, an investigative journalist based in New York City

Suman Naishadham, an independent journalist currently studying at the Missouri School of Journalism

The deadline to apply for the next round of grants is February 4, 2019.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism is an independent, non-profit organization that has supported public service reporting projects since 1969, when it provided funding for Seymour Hersh to investigate the massacre of civilians in My Lai during the Vietnam War. Since then, FIJ has supported the work of hundreds of reporters who have uncovered and published important investigative stories from across the United States and around the world.

 

Report uncovers prison sex abuse, “rubber stamp” audits

Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003 to “prevent, detect, and respond to” sexual abuse in American prisons. Yet at least 11 lawsuits alleging criminal sexual abuse of inmates have been filed against former employees of New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women since 2015.

So, when PREA auditors examined the prison in 2014 and 2016, how did it pass?

This question is at the center of FIJ grant recipient Lauren Lee White’s story, “#MeToo Behind Bars: How Federal Investigators Are Ignoring Prison Sexual Assaults They Are Hired To Report,” the first in a series for WitnessLA.

Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, calls one of the Edna Mahan audits a “rubber stamp.” It includes nearly verbatim passages found in at least 12 other audits of other facilities conducted between 2015 and 2018. Wright’s story explores this apparent failure of the PREA auditing system and shows how that affects incarcerated women across the country.

View of the entrance to the L.A. County women’s jail. Photo by Lauren Lee White

[FIJ thanks the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation for providing the funding for this project]

Giving Thanks

With gratitude for their moral and financial support, the board and staff of the Fund for Investigative Journalism would like to acknowledge the many individuals and organizations that have sustained the work of independent investigative reporters throughout the year.

Major Supporters:

The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation

The Reva and David Logan Foundation

The Weissman Family Foundation

The Ford Foundation

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation

craigslist Charitable Fund

The Park Foundation

The Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation

The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation

The Nara Fund

The Tides Foundation

The Scripps Howard Foundation

The Ardea Fund

The Davis Family Charitable Fund

Connie Rydberg and Nirav Kapadia

Shari and Charles Pfleeger

Sally Collier and Bob Caiola

Irene Schmidt

Mentors:

Moriah Balingit

David Biello

Ryan Gabrielson

Lottie Joiner

Linda Jue

Liz Lucas

Robert McClure

Craig McCoy

Steven Rich

Ricardo Sandoval Palos

John Shiffman

Cheryl W. Thompson

Scott Zamost

Melissa del Bosque

Partners:

Catalogue for Philanthropy – Greater Washington

Investigative Reporters and Editors

Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting

Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University

Society of Environmental Journalists

The Marshall Project

The Ida B. Wells Society

Advisors:

Eric Fingerhut, Pro Bono Attorney, Dykema

Amy Christen, Pro Bono Attorney, Dykema

Corey Wheaton, Pro Bono Attorney, Dykema

Christopher Wilkinson, Pro Bono Attorney, Orrick

Leigh Riddick, Pro Bono Financial Advisor, Kogod School of Business, American University

Lisa Button

Bobby Caina Calvan

Bridget Gallagher

Jamie Gold

Jerry Redfern

Beverly Orr

Thanks to all!

New book explores international corporate bribery, consequences

Kickback, a new book by FIJ grant recipient David Montero, traces the ways that international corporate bribery foments poverty, violence, and environmental disaster around the world.

The book notes a litany of foreign and domestic companies accused of bribery and kickbacks, both historically and today, from the British East India Company to the international conglomerate Siemens.

One chapter explains how a history of ingrained bribery in Greece contributed to that country’s economic collapse. And an FIJ grant helped Montero complete reporting on a chapter documenting international pharmaceutical firms’ payoffs to gain market share in China.

But a main point is that “corruption rarely stays ‘out there,’” Montero says.

“Bribes eventually harm Americans, American society, American values, and American interests, both domestically and around the world, in ways that are difficult to gauge.”

[FIJ thanks The Reva and David Logan Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

Story highlights “crusade” against domestic violence in the black community

Five black women were killed in Mobile, Alabama, in 2016, six in 2017 and five by April this year. That is 16 women dead, mostly at the hands of black men, over three years in this small Southern city.

In a story for NBC News—and her latest piece on domestic violence in the black community—FIJ and Schuster Institute Fellow Chandra Thomas Whitfield tells of police sergeant John C. Young, who, in April, asked the Mobile City Council to address the issue of black women being killed by intimate partner violence.

Young received a tepid response.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study notes that black women are 35 percent more likely to be victims of domestic violence than white women. In the story, L.A. author Sa’iyda Shabazz says silence about the issue for many in the black community stems from worries of contributing to the racist stereotype that black men are more violent than men of other races.

Meanwhile, Young says he will continue his one-man crusade despite the city council’s lack of response.

John C. Young protests in front of the Mobile Government Plaza. Photo by Tim Jones

[FIJ thanks The Ford Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

Racism, the mob and the FBI converge in a Chicago dump for new podcast

The Citya new investigative podcast from USA TODAY, tells the story of an undercover FBI investigation that failed to bring justice to a black Chicago neighborhood that had been the victim of illegal dumping perpetrated by the mob. 

The City was created by investigative reporter Robin Amer, who received bridge funding for the show from FIJ. 

The story begins in Chicago in 1990. Highways are rebuilt, old buildings demolished, new parks and skyscrapers erected. But all that rubble has to go somewhere: a pair of vacant lots in a black, working-class neighborhood called North Lawndale.

At the helm of this operation is a guy sporting a Cosby sweater, manicured nails, and underworld connections: John Christopher. For more than a decade, what Christopher does on this lot is a tour through the underbelly of Chicago: aldermen get indicted; an FBI investigation goes awry; a neighborhood gets polluted with impunity. And a community’s resilience is tested—all under the specter of racism in America.

A City of Chicago car drives past the illegal dump site at the center of the investigation. Photo by Brian Jackson

[FIJ thanks The Park Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

FIJ funded earlier story about owner of N.Y. limousine company behind crash

In 2011, FIJ helped fund investigative reporter Trevor Aaronson’s research into the FBI’s program of recruiting informants to break terrorist plots within the U.S. That reporting became the Mother Jones magazine story “The Informants,” which Aaronson wrote while a fellow at the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Part of that Mother Jones story followed the FBI’s involvement with counterterrorism informant Shahed Hussain – the owner of the company whose limousine crashed in upstate New York on October 6, killing 20. Ironically, Hussain’s relationship with the FBI began when he was caught running a scam at the New York DMV.

Aaronson, now the Executive Director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and a contributor to The Intercept, says, “I think there’s a valid question here about whether this horrible accident would have happened had the FBI not protected this guy from deportation and prosecution for more than a decade.”

Investigation raises questions about police tactics in D.C. gun cases

A months-long investigation by WAMU reporter Patrick Madden and a team of graduate students from the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University found evidence that many gun possession cases – nearly 4 in 10 – were dismissed in court, raising questions about police tactics in gun searches.

The investigation “Collateral Damage” focused on the impact of the Washington police department’s aggressive focus on confiscating illegal guns. The series – produced for radio, video and web – explored how tactics used by police to search for guns are also angering and alienating residents, especially in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods where police focus these efforts.

Illustration by Ruth Tam / WAMU

[FIJ thanks The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

Diversity Fellowship Deadline: Monday October 1

The September 24 deadline to apply for FIJ grants has passed, but it’s not too late to apply for a diversity fellowship.

That deadline is Monday, October 1. FIJ will award up to four diversity fellowships in partnership with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting,  InsideClimate News, and the Marshall Project.

Details of this fellowship opportunity are here: http://fij.org/fij-launches-new-collaborations-for-next-round-of-diversity-fellowships/

The next deadline for general grants is Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. For instructions, visit the “Apply for a Grant” page: http://fij.org/apply-for-a-grant/

Home healthcare investigation finds shortfalls in labor pool, oversight

As America’s population ages, the need for homecare workers increases as well. FIJ and Schuster Institute Fellow Linda Matchan investigated this burgeoning industry in Massachusetts and found both a shortage of people willing to work in these low paying jobs, as well as a lack of oversight of the people taking care of the state’s elderly and homebound.

Matchan covers the issue in two stories for the Boston Globe. In the first, she documents the neglect and abuse that some patients suffer at the hands of criminal homecare workers. In the second story, she follows a Ghanaian woman who is part of a coterie of foreign workers who help fill the gap in home healthcare needs. Additionally, in an interview with radio station WBUR, Matchan describes the reporting, as well as her own story of looking for a home healthcare worker.

Photo of Deborah Lesco by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe

[FIJ thanks The Ford Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

Black women more likely to be killed from domestic violence

In the September/October issue of Ebony Magazine (subscription required), FIJ and Schuster Institute Fellow Chandra Thomas Whitfield takes an in-depth look at the troubling statistic that Black women are more likely than any other group of women in the country to be killed in domestic violence incidents. She writes that while media reports tend to highlight crimes committed by strangers, research shows that Black women are most likely to be harmed by those closest to them–their partners and spouses. According to a CDC report, Black women are twice as likely as White women to be killed by an acquaintance. Another source says that poverty is a factor, especially for women with children who depend on their abusers for income.

[FIJ thanks The Ford Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

Bilingual project looks at immigration policies and outcomes between Guatemala and the U.S.

Grant recipient Maria E. Martin has completed a bilingual web and radio project examining the effects of the Trump administration’s deportation policies on Guatemala.

According to her reporting, approximately 200,000 Guatemalans leave for the United States each year. And for the past two years, more than 50,000 Guatemalans have been deported annually. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 2 million Guatemalans live in the U.S. and at least half of them lack legal status.

Martin told the stories of deported Guatemalans, both recent migrants and people who had been living and working in the U.S. for decades, in a story for NBC. And in a report for NPR, Martin talked with the director of a migrant refuge in Guatemala who calls the current situation, “a game of pingpong.” He said that 95 percent of deported migrants interviewed by his group will try to return again to the U.S.

Martin also completed a two-part documentary radio project for Making Contact that examined the plight of women migrants and the reasons so many Guatemalans are leaving their country. She also looked at the cost of deportations for the receiving countries, and specifically whether Guatemala is prepared to cope with the tens of thousands of people deported annually by the U.S.

Her reporting also ran as a series of audio and written stories on the Spanish-language radio network Radio Bilingüe, covering the cost of lost remittances to Guatemala; the particular dangers faced by women who want to migrate; and deported Guatemalans who try their luck again at returning to the U.S.

A woman and boy walk past towels for sale in San Juan Ostuncalco, one of hundreds of Guatemalan indigenous communities that send migrants north. Photo by Maria E. Martin

[FIJ thanks The Reva and David Logan Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]

The Fund for Investigative Journalism Is Hiring

The Fund for Investigative Journalism seeks Director of Operations

The Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) is seeking a Director of Operations to help the organization fulfill its mission of supporting freelance and independent investigative journalists.

The Director of Operations oversees all office operations and procedures to ensure organizational effectiveness and efficiency and reports directly to the Executive Director.

Founded in 1969, FIJ makes grants to journalists who have great tips, ideas, and sources, but need financial resources to accomplish groundbreaking investigations and tell stories that otherwise would not be told. FIJ reviews proposals from investigative journalists three to four times a year, making about 45 to 50 grants annually.

FIJ is governed by a board of accomplished investigative journalists who uphold the highest standards of unbiased, nonpartisan investigative journalism. In its field, FIJ is unique as a longstanding organization of journalists that helps fellow journalists, by raising funds to sustain independent watchdog reporting.

Job responsibilities:

Promote FIJ and its grantees

  •        Promote grantees’ work on FIJ website, through social media, and in newsletters.
  •        Write and design brochures that promote FIJ to potential grantees and fellows.
  •        Write and design brochures that promote FIJ to potential supporters.
  •        Track grantees’ work and outcomes, communicate results to donors and the public.
  •        Conduct outreach at journalism conferences and through social media.

Manage grant application and selection process

  •        Communicate with applicants and grantees from their first inquiry through project completion.
  •        Facilitate board review of grant applications.
  •        Operate programs that provide mentors and pro-bono legal guidance to grantees.

Donor appreciation, fundraising support

  •        Manage donor appreciation correspondence.
  •        Update website frequently to recognize donors.
  •        Help develop impact reports and other information to report back to foundations and other donors.

Operations/Administration

  •        Update website content; suggest improvements.
  •        Troubleshoot and maintain website, or supervise vendor.
  •        Assist executive director with board meeting communications and logistics.
  •        Assist executive director with administrative functions.
  •        Maintain electronic and paper filing systems; guide ongoing transition from paper to electronic.
  •        Maintain office calendar of deadlines for fundraising, partnerships and donor reporting, and grant application and review process.
  •        Help write foundation progress reports.
  •        Supervise temporary office personnel to keep donor and grantee lists current.
  •        Evaluate donor and grantee management systems; recommend improvements.

Special Projects

  •        Help organize 50th Anniversary Event.

Other duties as required.

Professional skills required: Strong organizational, writing, and technology skills. Strong interpersonal skills and ability to communicate organization’s mission and fundraising goals to potential supporters, in person and in writing. The ideal candidate would initiate ideas to improve FIJ’s programs and outreach to independent and diverse journalists. Proficiency in Word and Excel. Familiarity with or willingness to learn basic Quickbooks functions.

Specific technology requirements: Must have advanced knowledge of WordPress to update Website and troubleshoot occasional issues, ability to generate email newsletters, and use Photoshop or equivalent to edit images. Familiarity with Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets and willingness to learn how to work with Google’s suite of cloud-based applications. Salesforce knowledge would be a plus.

General technology requirements: Successful applicant would be the chief technology expert for FIJ, able to juggle technological issues with projects and administrative duties that advance FIJ’s mission. Must be familiar with file-sharing systems.

The ideal candidate is experienced in handling a broad range of tasks, is flexible, able to work independently, and desires a part-time position. The candidate may work remotely on occasion.

The position is located in Washington DC.

Experience: 5 years experience in communications, nonprofit management, and/or fundraising, preferred.

Terms: Part-time position (20 hours/week); compensation includes contribution to health insurance plan.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism is an equal opportunity employer.

Deadline to apply: Friday, October 5, 2018

Send cover letter, resume and two short writing samples to Sandy Bergo, executive director, at FUNDFIJresumes@gmail.com, with subject heading: Director of Operations position.

Legal Guidance Now Available for FIJ Grantees

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
Amelia Nitz, Reporters Committee, anitz@rcfp.org
Sandy Bergo, Fund for Investigative Journalism, sbergo@fij.org

Reporters Committee and Fund for Investigative Journalism announce partnership to support independent journalists

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is partnering with the Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) to offer legal support to FIJ grantees completing investigative reporting projects across the country.

For nearly half a century, FIJ has financially supported the work of independent journalists who lack the resources needed to pursue investigations into issues such as racism, poverty, corporate greed and government corruption. FIJ-supported projects have won an array of journalistic honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, Peabody Award, George Polk Award and Sigma Delta Chi Award, among others.

Reporters Committee attorneys have already begun working with six grantees as part of a pilot program with FIJ to review drafts of stories for libel and other legal concerns before they are published, and to provide other pro bono legal assistance related to newsgathering and First Amendment issues.

“Independent investigative journalists are increasingly in need of legal support but are among those who have the least amount of ready access to it,” said Marcia Bullard, FIJ’s Board President. “Our partnership with the Reporters Committee will offer FIJ grantees essential legal expertise to support their reporting.”

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with FIJ to help investigative journalists shed light on some of the most pressing issues affecting communities across the country,” said Katie Townsend, Legal Director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Our attorneys are looking forward to providing FIJ grantees with much-needed legal support for their important work.”

This announcement is also available on the RCFP website here. Legal support is available upon request, as part of the FIJ grant application process. For more information contact sbergo@fij.org.

Inmate deaths and lack of oversight found in ICE contract prisons

Grant recipient Robin Urevich has published a series of stories in Capital & Main outlining two deaths connected to inadequate medical care at immigration detention centers run by Emerald Correctional Management. Urevich’s investigation found that the firm received millions from no-bid government contracts while providing sub-par service—this despite a history of poor performance on the part of the company. As of 2016, the company had abandoned or been fired from more detention contracts than it maintained.

The Louisiana-based firm went out of business in 2017, but the abuses uncovered reflect a lack of oversight by ICE in vetting potential prison contractors. Immigration detention has expanded fivefold in the past 23 years, Urevich reports, and with the Trump administration’s deportation surge, is growing larger.

Illustration by Define Urban for Capital & Main

[This project was funded by The Park Foundation.]

 

Student reporters examine slavery legacy at Georgetown University

In 1838, the Society of Jesus in Maryland, an international Jesuit community, sold 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana. That sale saved Georgetown University, a Jesuit school, from financial ruin. With funding from FIJ, reporters from The Hoya—the student paper at Georgetown—examined the university’s legacy of slavery and its relationship to descendants of the enslaved. Their investigation found that the university had unearthed human remains in 2014 while constructing the newest dormitory building on campus. Those remains were near what was once a segregated graveyard—the final resting place of several Georgetown slaves. The discovery was not publicized and the space remains unmarked.

Additionally, the student team traveled to Maringouin, Louisiana, where the majority of the population are descendants of the 272 slaves sold to save the university in 1838. Maringouin has not had a high school since 2009, and students must make a 58-mile daily commute to attend school. Locals told the student journalists that they believe the decision to shut the school was motivated in part by race, and they are calling for Georgetown and the Society of Jesus to support primary and secondary education in the town.

Poynter has written the story behind the story of The Hoya report.

And, finally, the Georgetown students produced an online edition that recaps their investigation.

Above, a view of sugarcane fields around Maringouin, Louisiana. Photo by Derrick Arthur

[Funding for this project was provided by The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation.]

Reporting on U.S. military in Africa wins National Press Club award

Grant recipient Christina Goldbaum has won the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence from the National Press Club for her reporting on suspected U.S. military involvement in the killing of 10 civilians during a mission in Somalia in 2017. This follows her earlier win of a Livingston Award for Excellence in International Reporting for the same series of stories in the Daily Beast.
Goldbaum’s reporting found evidence that U.S. Special Forces undertook the mission based on dubious intelligence from poorly vetted sources. Her reporting also raised questions about the oversight and strategy of U.S. forces in Africa. While the number of U.S. military missions in Africa has increased by 1,900 percent between 2008 and 2015, a person working with the U.S. mission in Somalia says, “There is no U.S. strategy here.”
The stories were mentioned by Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) in his call for a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on counterterrorism efforts in Africa.
In photo, a Somali National Army soldier patrols alongside African Union Peacekeeping Forces. Photo by Christina Goldbaum

[Funding for this project was provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation.]