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Inside the Newsroom

Future State forums to examine education as a path to sustainability

November 7, 2012, 12:05 AM | Marie McIntosh

Would it surprise you that former California community college students have some of the nation's highest loan default rates? 

According to The Fresno Bee, nearly 1 in 5 community college students in the Central Valley who took out federal loans defaulted on them after leaving college in 2010. (You can check out your school's default rate here.)

Larger economic woes also are plaguing the Central Valley. Merced County had an unemployment rate of 14.5 percent in September, one of the highest in the United States, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, California Watch will launch a new series of forums designed to engage the public on civic issues. The first event of the Future State series will look at the state of education in California, particularly through the lens of the Central Valley.

So tell us, what are the biggest opportunities and challenges that you face within your local education system?

Follow the conversation on Twitter using #FutureCA and following @CaliforniaWatch.

Post your thoughts below (we'll be highlighting some of them on Twitter and Facebook) or, as always, you can email me at mmcintosh@cironline.org.

California Watch, CIR, The Bay Citizen win SPJ honors

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has announced the winners of its annual awards, and we are proud to have several reporters from the Center for Investigative Reporting, California Watch and The Bay Citizen counted among the honorees.

The Bay Citizen's Aaron Glantz won the Journalist of the Year award. His ongoing coverage of the numerous challenges veterans face upon returning home from war has garnered national attention and has triggered federal reforms to help veterans receive the care they need.

His coverage of the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially the VA in Oakland, has revealed massive backlogs of vets waiting on benefits to treat disabilities sustained while in the military. In his reporting, Glantz found that wait times are longest in urban areas. You can check the backlogs in our interactive map of the VA’s 58 regional offices (including the three in California)...

The I Files brings investigative news to YouTube

July 31, 2012, 8:32 AM | Stephen Talbot

What's your favorite YouTube video? Does it involve baby antics, pet tricks or sports blunders? Clips from “The Daily Show?” I confess a weakness for music video parodies like “Whole Foods Parking Lot," which has more than 4 million views.

Or, if you want to talk about mega-numbers, just consider what might be the platonic ideal for an alluring YouTube video: Shakira singing the official anthem for the 2010 World Cup, "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," which combines emotional highlights from the world's most popular sport with the “Hips Don’t Lie” appeal of a crossover singing sensation. The result: nearly 500 million views.

Into this media world, we now venture. We're introducing The I Files, an investigative news channel on YouTube.

Edited by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, California Watch's parent organization, The I Files will be a showcase for the best investigative news videos from around the world – stories that investigate power, reveal secrets and illuminate your world. Our motto: Dig deep...

Picture this: Snapshots from Fresno event

July 25, 2012, 12:05 PM | Ashley Alvarado

Last week, in a post titled "Inside the Newsroom: Listening to the unincorporated," I wrote about a recent trip to Fresno.

California Watch reporter Bernice Yeung and I journeyed there to join California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit legal services program, and a few dozen community members to talk about Yeung's April report “Neglected for decades, unincorporated communities lack basic public services,” which detailed the hardships faced by some 1.8 million Californians who live in unincorporated neighborhoods.

The event was a huge success, and I encourage you to read the post I put together.

But there was definitely something missing from that article: photos.

So, today, I'm happy to share a small series of photos courtesy of PolicyLink, an Oakland-based public policy research and advocacy institute that also participated.

All photos were taken by Hector Gutierrez. 


Listening to the unincorporated

July 17, 2012, 6:43 AM | Ashley Alvarado

Last weekend, California Watch health and welfare reporter Bernice Yeung and I traveled to Fresno for a meeting with representatives from unincorporated communities across the state.

The four-hour-plus session, held in English and Spanish, was a follow-up to Yeung’s April report “Neglected for decades, unincorporated communities lack basic public services,” which detailed the hardships faced by some 1.8 million Californians who live in unincorporated neighborhoods. Access to clean water is sometimes limited and oftentimes prohibitively expensive. Infrastructure is left in disrepair. And there are few clear paths to solutions.

There are hundreds of such communities across California, and California Rural Legal Assistance is active in many of them. We partnered with the nonprofit legal services program for Saturday’s event, which included lunch and travel stipends for participants who came from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and as far south as the Eastern Coachella Valley. (PolicyLink, an Oakland-based public policy research and advocacy institute, also participated.)

We distributed several Spanish and English California Watch Community Toolkits – these include hard copies of the article, the React & Act, a fact sheet on California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting, and a DVD of related multimedia – and sat down to discuss the issues residents face...

CIR partners with Youth Speaks for Brave New Voices Festival

July 5, 2012, 12:05 AM | Kristin Crawford

We are proud to announce that the Center for Investigative Reporting – parent organization to California Watch and The Bay Citizen – is launching a new partnership with San Francisco-based nonprofit Youth Speaks. Since 1998, the Youth Speaks' Brave New Voices Festival, the largest ongoing spoken word event in the world, has brought together young artists, educators and emerging leaders to celebrate artistic empowerment and youths’ voices. 

More than 500 young people from across the United States and several countries participate in Brave New Voices each year. It’s a chance for the next generation to speak about education, detention, immigration, arts, politics and the environments in which we live.

For CIR, this partnership is a unique opportunity to engage a generation that we rarely reach. CIR will be involved in a variety of aspects of the festival this year, which will provide opportunities for participants to share critical issues that can inform and evolve our reporting, and for us to introduce them to investigative reporting on the issues that they care about. We hope the festival will be the beginning of an ongoing collaboration to engage young people in our work.

The Brave New Voices Festival runs July 17-21 in San Francisco. Click here for more information.

California Watch debuts children’s videos on dangers of lead

July 3, 2012, 12:05 AM | Ashley Alvarado

My job is fun. Don’t get me wrong. It’s tough. It’s exhausting. But it’s also pretty darn awesome. That’s especially true when it comes to the different children-oriented projects I’ve led during my first two years at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The center and its projects – California Watch and The Bay Citizen – focus on solution-oriented reporting with the potential to improve people’s quality of life.

Our work does not end with the publication of an investigation. We want to ensure those most affected get the information they need to better understand and address the issue. 

With a California Watch series on earthquake safety at California schools, that meant engaging children. Working with an education specialist from the Red Cross of Los Angeles, I wrote a coloring book aimed at teaching children about earthquake safety.

Earlier this year, we debuted a section on its website dedicated exclusively to children. That’s where you’ll find an interactive version of the coloring book, a map of where Sunny the California Watchdog – our little mascot – has traveled and puppet show videos. The first of these videos relates to many California Watch stories and teaches children about clean water...

California Watch wins IRE award for innovation

Investigative Reporters and Editors

The staff of California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting today won the Gannett Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism administered by Investigative Reporters and Editors.

The honor, which comes with a $5,000 prize, was awarded for "On Shaky Ground," a series of stories detailing systemic breakdowns in the way the state ensures that California public schools are seismically safe.

The award recognizes the use of digital innovation in the gathering and/or delivery of watchdog and investigative news to its audience. It honors work that stands out for its creative use of digital tools to further a news organization’s ability to serve as a watchdog in its community.

In announcing the award, Kate Marymont, vice president of news for Gannett's community publishing division, described the multiplatform series as "platform perfect."

The California Watch series included a coloring book that helped children prepare for an earthquake, an iPhone app and a searchable database of an estimated 10,000 public schools showing their...

Project examines patterns of state's biggest campaign donors

May 31, 2012, 1:05 AM | Mark Katches

Seventeen months ago, I started teaching an investigative reporting class at Stanford University. It would last only 11 weeks. But my 16 Stanford students laid the groundwork for a project that California Watch will unveil just in time for the California primary election.

The project, which goes live Monday, looks at the top 100 political campaign contributors in the state – 50 individuals and 50 interest groups.

In California, major special interests have spent nearly $1.3 billion on election campaigns in the past 11 years. Scores of politicians hold office today thanks to the financial backing they have received from some of the state’s largest special interests and wealthy individuals. These donors represent just a tiny number of the state’s total campaign contributors – but the data indicates that a great deal of the power is concentrated among these major donors.

The list of top individual donors includes wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, investment bankers and venture capitalists as well as some of the state's biggest real estate tycoons...

California Watch debuts Spanish-language children’s video

May 7, 2012, 12:05 AM | Ashley Alvarado

It’s a fact. We serve a multilingual state. The issues we cover at California Watch do not know language boundaries, and our efforts to engage community members around a story should not either. In an ideal world, every California Watch article would be available in multiple languages. As it is, many already are. We also have made an effort to provide supplemental information in languages other than English.

Most recently, we debuted English- and Spanish-language Community Toolkits that arm readers with information about California Watch and our stories, as well as tips for working with media on issues they care about. Now I’m excited to premier the Spanish-language version of our children’s video about the need for clean water. Click here to view it in our kids' section, or watch below.

Every video we do in this occasional series will be made available in English and Spanish...

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