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Inside the Newsroom

California Watch staff named Pulitzer finalists

Erica Perez/California Watch Reporter Corey G. Johnson and his colleagues at California Watch spent months sifting through tens of thousands of pages of state records. 

The staff of California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting was named today as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the local reporting category for exposing regulatory breakdowns in the way seismic safety standards are met at public schools.

The local reporting prize went to Sara Ganim and members of The Patriot-News staff in Harrisburg, Pa., for their coverage of the Penn State sex scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky. It was one of 14 journalism awards announced today by Columbia University, which administers journalism’s most prestigious awards.

The other local reporting finalists were A.M. Sheehan and Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling of the Advertiser Democrat in Norway, Maine, a weekly newspaper that exposed problems with a federally supported housing program...

California Watch introduces children’s section

April 9, 2012, 12:05 AM | Ashley Alvarado

Gather 'round, Junior Watchdogs!

This month, California Watch debuts a section of our website dedicated exclusively to children. As a rule, we want to reach the Californians most affected by any given matter and equip them with the knowledge they need to better understand and address the issue. Sometimes – as with last year’s series on earthquake safety at California schools – that means engaging children.

To that end, and with help from our readers, we created Sunny the California Watchdog, a furry and friendly mascot, to explain complicated issues to kids. For our “On Shaky Ground” series, we produced about 36,000 “Ready to Rumble” earthquake safety coloring books in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and traditional and simplified Chinese.

Now, Sunny is back as the star of our Junior Watchdogs section, which features an interactive version of “Ready to Rumble” (which kids can color online), a map of Sunny’s travels and an occasional video series in which Sunny and friends help children understand the issues we report on, like lead in jewelry and the need for clean drinking water.

So, click on over and tell us what you think...

Community Toolkits put investigations, info in readers’ hands

April 6, 2012, 12:24 AM | Ashley Alvarado

From its inception in 2009, California Watch has emphasized in-depth, high-impact reporting that delves not only into the issues Californians face, but also potential solutions. We understand that problems do not begin and end with a story’s publication, so we’re always trying to offer tools and resources that will allow our readers to become their own advocates. We’re especially focused on the communities that are immediately affected by an issue and those who are in a position to effect change.

To that end, we have created a React & Act feature for most of our larger investigations. These supplemental resource guides include contact information for key players and break down issues to make them easier to understand. We’ve even gone so far as to create coloring books for children. But we want to do more...

California Watch, KQED win IRE medal for 'On Shaky Ground'

April 2, 2012, 12:08 PM | Mark Katches

We are proud to pass along more good news today at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Our California Watch investigation produced in collaboration with KQED, "On Shaky Ground," was honored this morning with a rare, prestigious medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

The 19-month series detailed major regulatory shortcomings in the way the state protects children and teachers from seismic threats, and it has prompted sweeping reforms that will help make schools safer.

“Despite devastating cutbacks across the news business, investigative reporting is alive and well, and really making a difference in our society,” Lea Thompson, contest committee co-chairwoman, said in a statement. “The judges not only saw superb digging, but also perseverance in the face of what often seemed insurmountable odds by large and small news organizations working in print, TV, radio and online.”

The series earlier won a national Scripps Howard Award in the public service category.

IRE honored California Watch and KQED in the multi-platform reporting category and named Corey G. Johnson, Erica Perez, Kendall Taggart, Agustin Armendariz, Michael Montgomery, Anna Werner and Krissy Clark for their outstanding work.

The judges said...

Merger offers chance to weave journalism, entrepreneurial spirit

March 27, 2012, 1:49 PM | Robert J. Rosenthal

The opportunities that lie ahead for everyone at the Center for Investigative Reporting are energizing and exciting. And the challenges are daunting. 

Our merger with The Bay Citizen announced today puts us in a unique position as journalists, innovators, technologists and, yes, entrepreneurs. I worked in newspapers for decades, starting as a copy boy and ending up as the top editor. No one ever strung those four words together to describe what we were as an organization.

But to survive, thrive and evolve, the journalism, the innovation, the technology and the entrepreneurial vision all have to be intertwined in the new model.  

CIR as an organization is driven by creativity, passion, teamwork, candor and an understanding that the basis of our value and credibility will always grow from the journalism. 

That will not change. When I came to CIR in January 2008, we had a staff of seven. We launched California Watch in September 2009. At the beginning of 2012, CIR and California Watch had a combined staff of 40. With the merger, we will have a staff of 70.

We will be an organization in which those who understand the power of technology and have the ability to tell stories and reach audiences in new and different ways will exist in a symbiosis with the journalists...

Help us name our new children’s section

March 21, 2012, 10:39 AM | Ashley Alvarado

It’s an especially exciting time to work at California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting. In recent weeks, we’ve been honored with the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the Scripps Howard Award for public service and the George Polk Award. Merger talks continue with The Bay Citizen. And soon, we will unveil a new section of the website dedicated to kid-friendly material.

Wee ones will be able to color our “Ready to Rumble” book on earthquake safety right on the site; parents can order or download a copy for home use. Plus, we’ll launch an occasional series of videos featuring Sunny, the California Watchdog, as he helps children understand the issues we report on, like lead in jewelry and the need for clean drinking water. 

There’s just one thing we’re missing: a name for the kids’ section. We’ve narrowed down our list to three favorites and need your help to decide what we...

California Watch wins Scripps Howard public service award for seismic series

March 16, 2012, 6:05 AM | Mark Katches

It is an honor and privilege to announce that the Center for Investigative Reporting's California Watch today won a Scripps Howard Award in the public service category for our 19-month series “On Shaky Ground,” detailing a breakdown in the way the state protects children and teachers from the threat of a major earthquake.

The Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service honors news organizations whose journalism makes a difference. It’s terrific national recognition, especially considering that the reporting for the series actually began just days after California Watch opened for business. It started with one determined reporter asking the right questions. Ultimately, the project mushroomed to include contributions from just about everyone on our staff.

Reporter Corey G. Johnson was given a simple assignment soon after becoming one of the first reporters to arrive at our offices in Berkeley in August 2009. We asked him to write about seismic safety at schools – pegged to an upcoming quake anniversary. New to California, Johnson saw what scores of reporters had overlooked for decades...

California Watch 'Decoding Prime' series honored with Polk award

February 19, 2012, 9:56 PM | Robert J. Rosenthal

I am privileged and honored to write today that the Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch has won the George Polk Award for our multi-platform series on aggressive billing practices at a Southern California hospital chain, Prime Healthcare Services.

Our reporting team of Lance Williams, Christina Jewett and contributor Stephen K. Doig uncovered a pattern at Prime of billing Medicare for rare ailments that generate lucrative bonus payments to the chain.

The Polk award, one of the most prestigious in journalism, was named after a CBS newsman murdered while covering the Greek Civil War in 1948. A total of 15 winners were announced today by the contest administrators at Long Island University. Other recipients include the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and ABC News 20/20. Williams, Jewett and Doig won in the category of medical reporting. In announcing the award, Polk administrators cited our reporters for their "groundbreaking" investigation that "offered a glimpse into the broader problem of waste, fraud and abuse within the nation's $2.5 trillion health-care system."

It is a great honor and deeply gratifying. The work of our reporters was painstaking, thorough and courageous. We have produced our yearlong series amidst a barrage of criticism from Prime, which has waged a PR campaign against our small nonprofit newsroom, as we stood by our reporting...

If an elected official talks loudly in public, should reporters tweet?

January 20, 2012, 2:15 PM | Meghann Farnsworth

When California Watch's senior editor Bob Salladay took the train from Sacramento to Oakland on January 19, he didn't think he would be in a place to break news. But it's hard to ignore an Assembly candidate when she is talking loudly on her cell phone in a public space.

Media partners pool resources to fund bullet train trip

January 10, 2012, 5:50 AM | Mark Katches

When Fresno Bee business reporter Tim Sheehan boarded a plane for Spain in November, his trip signaled a new chapter of collaboration for a growing group of California news organizations.

Sheehan spent eight days abroad, gathering string for a package of stories about Spain's 20-year-old bullet trains. Of all the high-speed rail lines in the world, experts say the Spanish system has the most in common with the one California officials envision. Sheehan wanted to find out what lessons we can learn from Spain's experience.

The reporting trip cost about $4,000. At a mid-sized regional newspaper like The Fresno Bee, that type of price tag might have put an international trip out of reach – especially in this economy. But The Bee wasn’t going it alone...

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