If I’ve learned one important lesson in the past nine years editing investigative projects, it’s that the best watchdog stories bubble up from great beat reporting. That’s why we’ve assigned specialized beat areas for all our investigative reporters to mine for the best possible stories.
Our beats include K-12 schools (reporter Corey Johnson), higher education (reporter Erica Perez), health and welfare (reporter Christina Jewett) and two money and politics reporters (Lance Williams and Chase Davis). We also have an expert data analyst (Agustin Armendariz) who will track the flow of money – starting with stimulus spending in California. Radio reporter Michael Montgomery will be focusing mostly on criminal justice issues. Our reporting staff was selected from more than 700 applicants.
We’ve structured our budget so that we can hire two more investigative reporters in the spring – one focused on public safety issues and one focused on the environment.
We’d like to hire even more investigative reporters. I’d love to have one focused on land use, development and other business practices, and one aimed at consumer protection. I’d love to see another computer-assisted-reporting data specialist on our staff and another editor to help manage this talented reporting team we’re building. We also want to base part of our team in Los Angeles. Right now we have offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. Got to dream big.
Our ability to hire more reporters will depend on how productive we can be. And I don’t think we can be any better positioned for success. I’m a big believer that having reporters with specialized areas of focus will lead to far better stories than just having a group of generalists on our team with no real defined areas of focus.