Archive for the ‘#3 Propublica’ Category


Posted: March 2, 2011 by Maria Acle in #3 Propublica

One very important aspect of ProPublica is that while it sheds light onto issues that many of us would have never imagined, the website is not for everyone. Investigative reporting is already hard enough to maintain in any normal news organization. It takes a lot of time and money. However, a news outlet with only in depth stories makes the website’s content a bit heavy at times. It is definitely not a light reading. I understand its purpose is not to entertain an audience. But I still think that no one will really become a frequent reader of anything without the content being balanced. I think you still need light, uplifting stories mixed with the heavier in-depth stories.


Propublica Investigation- Omniscan & General Electric

Posted: February 15, 2011 by Joanne Goodall in #3 Propublica

When glancing through the Propublica’s section for their investigations, my eyes stopped at the word “Omniscan”. Curious, I read the little summary that followed the headline, “Omniscan: Specter of MRI Disease Haunts General Electric”. It briefly introduced what Omniscan is and why GE is linked with the chemical, but not much of a background.

I clicked on it to read further, not only because I was interested in what this multi-billion corporation has to do with a potentially fatal disease, but also because I have family members and friends who has had MRI scans before. Also, I am really interested in investigative journalism concerning corporations, greed, money, and heart-felt stories from victims of crime. Thinking this would be a good investigation to read and write a response to for Reporting 2.0, I pressed on ward.


ProPublica’s Brain Wars

Posted: February 14, 2011 by Leanne Osmond in #3 Propublica

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. A bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?

ProPublica, with the help of NPR, took a look at how so many soldiers coming back from the conflicts in the middle east (specifically Iraq and Afghanistan) are slipping through the cracks in the medical system.

When soldiers are involved in roadside bombs or the detonation of  improvised explosive devices (IED’s), the injuries are not always visible. Unlike those who lose arms or legs in these types of traumatic incidents, the ones who suffer from brain injuries more often than not become the soldiers who get left behind.


#3 Propublica

Posted: February 3, 2011 by Alex Vietinghoff in #3 Propublica

When I first started reading through one of Propublica’s invesstigations, I thought to myself: “This is great, we’ve got  a news source that answers only to itself.”  It reminded me a bit of Wikileaks.  Then the negative implications of Propublica sunk in. 


Propublica: Pros and Cons

Posted: February 2, 2011 by shanefowler2 in #3 Propublica

For the past two years Propublica has been involved in an ongoing investigation focusing on ‘For Profit Schools (’ These schools sit outside of the traditional realm of education in that their sole focus is turning a profit. Grades are of little consequence to these schools, as they work and operate on a business model. Their are obvious flaws to this type of system and Propublica set out to determine what, if any, problems existed when a learning institution operated on a business model.


ProPublica – Luke Muise

Posted: February 2, 2011 by lukemuise in #3 Propublica

Until yesterday, the U.S. had been very careful not to choose a side when it was addressing the current revolution in Egypt. They were walking a political tightrope – praising the egyptian people for standing up for themselves in a democratic way, but stopping way short of condemning the leader they were revolting against. I found it weird that a country that prides itself on being the first democratic nation would hesitate to give its support to a people eager to install democracy themselves. Of course, that’s not all there was to it: the U.S. and Egyptian governments have been scratching each other’s backs for years, and the U.S. was not about to turn theirs. Probably because they would rather Egypt not spill the beans about this.

It’s too late though, ProPublica was already all over it. Yep, turns out the U.S. had been sending suspected terrorists to places like Egypt, where torture and illegal detention are not out of the ordinary. This strategy backfired in a terrible way for the U.S.. One of the men they shipped off to Egypt, Ibn al-Shaikh al-Libi, was detained and tortured until he agreed to give the Egyptian Intelligence Service the information it wanted. To escape the torture (which included being put in a box no more than 2 feet square for 17 hours), he gave false information. That information was passed on to the U.S., where then Secretary of State Colin Powell used it in his speech to justify war with Iraq, and we all know what was never found there.

This is why investigative journalism is so important, people need to know that things like this happen. The people in charge do make mistakes, and they will try to hide them if they think they can do it. We can’t just let them do this though. People need to keep them accountable, and ProPublica is doing a fantastic job of it. Some people might say that they’re journalistic methods are harsh, but you know what else is harsh? Being stuffed in a 2 foot squared box for the majority of a day then getting beaten afterwards. As long as they are journalistically sound, which they appear to be, people shouldn’t have a problem trusting the information they get from the site.

It’s like that mosquito that buzzes around the dark room as you try to sleep away a hot summer night. Long-form investigative journalism continues to be the some-what pesky provider of expose in the public interest that is resurgent, just when the comfy dwellers in the bedroom of blunders thought it was gone for good.

To put a negative spin on this would be to sell short what, in the end, is the job of the journalist. The connotations that follow a word like “pesky” (and the subsequent comparison to a mosquito) do not speak accurately to the role that investigative long-form journalists have. Never has this role been more tested than in the era of emerging forms of new media.

The not-so recent challenges to the worth of long-form and the frequent predictions of it’s fade into oblivion (or “fade into bolivian”, as Mike Tyson once said about his boxing career) are rather ironic in the opinion of many, since it has never been easier to access great exploratory pieces.


Response: ProPublica (Alyssa Mosher)

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Alyssa Mosher in #3 Propublica

Fifty comments in just over 58 hours.

When I set my eyes on Abrahm Lustgarten’s article “Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated”, I knew I was going to read some good journalism. Climate change and global warming have always interested me for more than the obvious reasons. When Al Gore came out with An Inconvenient Truth, I have to admit, I was totally mesmerized by his. I couldn’t believe that we had allowed ourselves to literally soil our planet.

But ever since that first hype, I’ve been skeptical about global warming too. I don’t deny that it exists like certain scientists. I’m just a bit wary about the different “goals” nations make. Just two weeks ago, Fredericton became the first city east of B.C. to complete the fifth and final milestone with the Partners for Climate Protection Program. After doing a TV story on this, I found out that the milestone only meant that the City had taken five steps to reducing greenhouse gases. We don’t even know if we’ve reduced them enough to meet our own specific percentage goal. Weird, eh?

My point is that ProPublica’s story on the not-so-beneficial natural gas is something that needed to be done. Everyone knows how bad coal and oil are and the U.S. thinks natural gas is the solution. But what ProPublica finds out is that natural gas isn’t as “emission-friendly” as everyone thinks. While it may be cleaner than oil or coal, according to Lustgarten, it’s clearly not the final answer. I think his article suggests that people start creating this false “betterment” – while it may be better than the latter, it’s not the best and we can’t stop there. The research that went into this piece was awesome. It’s something I’d hope to do in the future – if they’ll have me…

Like we were saying in class last week, there just isn’t space for this kind of investigative journalism in newspapers. That’s one of the great things about ProPublica. I always thought it would be harder to read on a screen – and it used to be. I was never able to read feature-length pieces on the web – let alone stay focused in a long email. But now I’m finding it easier to stay focused because organizations are really starting to perfect the medium – at least ProPublica is.

What I really liked about the formatting of this article was that there weren’t very many – if any – ads popping up and distracting me. The page was clean-cut, nothing was cutting into the article and the font was big (key factor). One thing that daunted me when I decided to read “Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated” however, was the size of its scrolling bar. It was so small, that I was sure the article was going to be 30 pages long. But to my surprise – and astonishing disappointment – more than half of the scrolling space was dedicated to comments. I couldn’t believe it. Fifty comments in just over 58 hours. And some were really long (at least for an online comment) and might I add, not well researched.

I think that is it really great that online media offers a constant dialogue between members of the public no matter where they live. Some of them have really constructive things to say like Karl Stevens did on Jan. 27 at 2:48 a.m:

These types of articles are useful, but they avoid the real issues. It is not about cleaner or less clean energy sources. It is about how we need to immediately change our lifestyles and infrastructure to greatly reduce energy consumption, as soon as possible.

Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong, but he said something useful. But sometimes these comments can be far beyond useful. In fact, they can be completely destructure and I find it extremely frustrating. Just have a  look. You’ll get what I’m saying.

But what I did understand from these comments was that ProPublica is a very well-credited publication. (And to think I just heard of it from this class.) But that’s what crazes me the most is that this is investigative journalism – the digging deep, the grimy details, the menacing research – and it’s all online.

We can do that?


Propublica and New Media

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Elizabeth Sullivan in #3 Propublica

The Investigation:

The Real “CSI”: How America’s Patchwork System of Death Investigations Puts the Living at Risk

It’s an interesting topic off the top. I’ve been known to consume crime thrillers now and again. I’ve kind of guessed that there’s no way that what they tell me on CSI is completely the truth, and I like how in this investigation looks into why that’s the case. It’s one of those questions you always ask yourself, but never really feel like you’d ever actually get into the ‘meat’ of an answer unless they listed it somewhere on Wikipedia or someone like Frontline did a documentary on it.

There are also some features to the page that’s currently online, that I specifically like. The style is very classic. It utilizes white space in a way that simplifies the message into what’s important — the story. The way the actual page is divided is interesting. The center margins where the body of the story is located are quite narrow, so it looks like the story goes on forever and ever, when in actuality it’s concise, and it reads easily. There is a definite maximization of space at the top of the story, and it’s refreshing to see that the additional information on the web page doesn’t last as you start scrolling your way though the story. The additional material on the outside margins, is also interesting, if your interested in that sort of thing… i.e. twitter, morgues in your neighborhood; and a direct link to their partners on the investigation, Frontline – and the documentary that was comprised by the media outlet.


Thoughts on ProPublica

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Karissa Donkin in #3 Propublica

Working for a news outlet has its pros and its cons. One of the pros is the legitimacy associated with working for a respected news organization. One of the cons is living in an environment where you’re restricted by daily deadlines. News organizations are struggling to find money in the budget to simply pay enough people to fill the pages every day, letalone allow someone to take their time on in-depth pieces.

It’s also often argued that our generation just doesn’t have the appetite for these pieces. They want their news and they want it quick and abbreviated.


What else is new.

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Sara Power in #3 Propublica

The story I chose to comment on was Soldiers With Brain Trauma Denied Purple Hearts, Adding Insult to Injury. I started reading it, but there were so many related stories that I skimmed them as well, this one concerning undiagnosed brain injuries in soldiers in particular.

It’s a good story, about soldiers who have suffered concussions or other similar brain injuries because of I.E.D blasts or other things. Because there is no blood or bruising, it goes unnoticed and undiagnosed in many cases. Soldiers have had lasting problems due to this (impaired cognitive abilities, such as being unable to drive a car or impaired memory), and they have been denied a “Purple Heart”, a military honour, even though regulations say they should be.

I chose to read it because it interested me, and its just a sad story. It’s so easy to give a soldier who deserves it a medal of honour and courage. It’s another story of the small people getting stepped on or forgotten – it’s a simple story of injustice.



Posted: February 2, 2011 by seanoneill34 in #3 Propublica

The first thing to say after reading this story was how exhaustive and detailed it was. And the first thing that came to mind was that if any mainstream news agency took on a project of this magnitude, they either have the most generous, accepting editor in the world or this work will never get accomplished the way if has been done by the people at Propublica.

The authors say that the story took a year, with thousands of interviews conducted to get the meat of the story together, as well as going over thousands of tax recites that would make most people lose their vision. The positive that can be taken from this is that there are dedicated professionals that love a great mystery to solve for the public interest. And with all mainstream news agencies being owned by a corporate entity that looks at it just like any other business, the demand to make a product that will produce the all-mighty dollar may not come in the form of work such as this.

This give Propublica the range and time to do as much due diligence as possible to show as many sides as possible. However, it’s unreasonable to believe that a bunch of Propublica clones will pop up out of nowhere with millions of dollars in funding for the work to be done. Especially with the global financial situation the world is in, the chances of other multi-millionaires creating socially-conscious news agencies from scratch are the same as Steven Seagal winning Best Actor at the Oscars anytime soon.

So Propublica for me is a lightning-in-a-bottle organization. Just be thankful that its there to tell the stories of people who need renal dialysis but the standards of care are so poor even though Americans sink billions into health care.

Propublica- Dollars for Docs

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Danie Pitre in #3 Propublica

Pharmaceuticals are a big business in the States. They are still one of the only jurisdictions that allow for drug advertisements on TV and in those commercials you always hear that soothing friendly voice telling you to ask your doctor about some condition or another and if this blue pill is right for you.

So it’s no surprise that some doctors are taking talking gigs from big pharmaceutical companies to push their new medication. And they’re paying big bucks.

But I doubt the majority of people have any clue that their doctor might have a vested interest in what drugs they prescribe so it was a shocker when I read the stories from Propublica detailing just how closely pharmaceuticals are involved with doctors.

Propublica points out that “Whistleblower lawsuits in recent years have accused the firms of using doctors to push their pills for unapproved uses during dinner talks” which undermines the whole point of testing and studying treatments.

This story is like a narative for why for-profit healthcare is a bad idea and why ‘Obamacare’  is so controversial right now in the States. Your wellbeing shouldn’t be a money maker for the people who provide care for you, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and especially doctors.

But then you get an account from a doctor who says that the media makes a bigger fuss about the conflicts of interest than patients and that if a doctor isn’t tied to a pharmaceutical company they likely aren’t  a leader in their field and  patients should perhaps look for a new doctor.

It’s the role of news organisations to point out why it’s a bad idea to have companies making a profit off of patients because it leads to the abuse of those who are most vulnerable when they are sick.

Propublica – Adam Hodnett

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Adam Hodnett in #3 Propublica

I read the article In Minnesota, Drug Company Reports of Payments to Doctors Arrive Riddled With Mistakes. It’s a part of the Dollars for Docs series.

This is a perfect example of why investigative journalism is needed, and how—if it wouldn’t raise conflicts of interest and ethical issues—the government should be funding this kind of work because it is of huge public interest.

Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber looked into a new law called the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act,” which requires drug companies and medical device manufacturers to report how much money they give to doctors. A similar law was passed in Minnesota in 1993, so they started their investigation there. (more…)

#3 Propublica

Posted: February 2, 2011 by trevorjnichols in #3 Propublica

The relative ignorance of the public when it comes to the value of death investigators is a great example of how often huge issues – that have huge impacts on our lives – often go unnoticed.

Watching ProPublica’s collaborative investigation with NRP and PBS’s Frontline made me realize, once again, how valuable good investigative journalism can be.

The hour-long documentary looked at the problem with death investigations in many parts of the United States. It pulled back the CSI stereotype of flashy equipment and state-of-the-art facilities and revealed how underfunded and incompetent the coroner system can be (one former coroner said he used to do autopsies in a converted garage lit by a single light bulb).

Near the end of the story, one forensic scientist commented on how the importance of good death investigations doesn’t dawn on people until they are touched by it personally. Now I have never had personal experience with death investigations, however, I now feel strongly about the issue, after hearing the stories of families who have struggled because of them.

This, to me, exemplifies why this type of journalism is so important. It’s because good investigative journalism makes us feel touched on a personal level by something we would otherwise have no experience with. In a society that moves as fast as ours, anything that causes us to stop and think about others is extremely valuable.

ProPublica’s investigative work is injecting empathy and information into our society, and are successful because they are pragmatic, as well as ideological.

It’s sometimes hard not to scoff at some major news organizations, the MSNBC’s and Fox News’ who put profit well above the fair and thoughtful dissemination of information. At the same time, those organizations that operate outside the capitalist model usually have very little impact, because they are unable to reach a significant audience.

ProPublica is funded by a grant, so they don’t need to worry about making money. At the same time, they are partnered with major news organizations, so their stories aren’t left to decompose in an obscure web archive that no one ever sees. They have seemingly found a way to capitalize on the exposure of the mainstream media, while retaining the objectivity that comes from operating without the need to be profitable, and this is a great thing for journalism.

Propublica–Samantha Kamras

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Samantha Kamras in #3 Propublica

Who would have thought injustices could still affect you once you’re dead?

Propublica, PBS and NPR recently published an investigative piece, making it clear that it happens more often than you think. They cite shows like “CSI” as being responsible for putting faith in the scientists behind a morgue’s doors. The reality is that most people performing autopsies are unqualified.

 “The Real “CSI”: How America’s Patchwork System of Death Investigations Puts the Living at Risk” explores a 2009 report by the National Academy of Science, and its claim that one in five physicians working in morgues in the US are unqualified. The result is that police brutalities, possible murders and potential contagious diseases are going unnoticed. Ripples from these injustices are then affecting the living.



Posted: February 2, 2011 by braillebone in #3 Propublica

It’s undoubtedly uncomfortable to read articles like Inept Nurses Free to Work in New Locales, but it’s investigative pieces like this that bellow ProPublica’s purpose: what we don’t know does hurt us.

It may be fair to assert that pieces uncovering horrible truths concealed for any length of time make readers cynical, but more importantly, they make readers aware.

It’s terrifying to think one might have to be cautious about their caregiver at a hospital or weary of leaving children with a licensed nurse; what reason might anyone have to doubt Orphia Wilson, a home health nurse,  could be responsible for at least two child deaths? Perhaps no reason, if the matter was never to be investigated by an organization such as ProPublica. But she was, and has lost her registered nursing license although she has been issued new ones in different states because of poor regulation.

This investigation was extensive, recovering data from various reports and records spanning several states. Under the continually decreasing budgets of general newsrooms, deep-digging pieces such as this Los Angeles Times collaboration simply don’t get done. And if they do, they’re not of the same caliber because the resources aren’t available.

ProPublica is a non-profit, fully funded organization not driven by any commercial agendas that might impede journalistic integrity or freedom to do controversial and hard-hitting stories. As a result, stories like Inept Nurses Free to Work in New Locales uncover alarming information about situations and people most of us would have otherwise assumed honest and safe. The public’s level of awareness is increased, and they are better equipped to know and understand a suspect situation when it presents itself.

The free and easily accessible investigative reports are available online on the ProPublica website, and its contributors specialize in detailed, investigative research and storytelling. This is public service if I ever saw it.

ProPublica’s raison d’etre is to shed light on the tough stories everyone else fears to touch or don’t have the time or resources to do justice for. This is what makes it a fascinating and increasingly necessary publication. If lowered budgets compromise journalists’ ability to do long-form, well-researched investigative pieces, vital stories don’t get told.

While a publication such as the Los Angeles Times do collaborate with ProPublica, which benefits ProPublica’s circulation and readership, the relationship also benefits the larger publications because of added potent researchers and other resources like reporters and overall skills from the field.

The more sound and solid the journalism, the wider circulation of the articles, which in turn does an even greater justice to society in providing them with the highest standard of in-depth news available.

Propublica – Melissa Dickinson

Posted: February 2, 2011 by melissadickinson in #3 Propublica

With the rapid progression that is today’s technology, I begin to wonder how credible journalism really is. Sometimes, I think that journalist and journalistic corporations focus too much on being first to crack the day’s breaking news that they lose sight of what’s important for society to know. And of course, most important is being able to present them with the truth.

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit journalism organization aiming to provide journalism for the public interest. I found interest in an investigative report provided by Propublica and NPR entitled Brain Wars that focuses on how the US military is failing to provide effective care for brain injured soldiers. The article “Brain Injuries Remain Undiagnosed in Thousands of Soldiers,” takes a closer look at personal stories of the toll war can take on a soldier. In addition, T. Christian Miller from ProPublica and Daniel Zwerdling from NPR, dig deep and big to the surface the poor care that is given to the soldiers and reasonings as to why a stance has not been taken.

The statistics that this investigative report present are astonishing and frustrating to comprehend how so many potential diagnoses can be missed. The article states that, “In the civilian world, there is growing consensus about the danger of ignoring head trauma: Athletes and car accident victims are routinely tested for brain injuries and are restricted from activities that could result in further blows to the head. But the military continues to overlook similarly wounded soldiers, a reflection of ambivalence about these wounds at the highest levels, our reporting shows. Some senior Army medical officers remain skeptical that mild traumatic brain injuries are responsible for soldiers’ troubles with memory, concentration and mental focus.”

I believe that the organization ProPublica is beneficial to today’s society. The investigative reports that are presented are of an interest value and can be easily read. I personally found the writing of these articles smooth and easy to read. It made it easy to understand the statistics and arguments brought to the public eye. With the busy lifestyle that most individuals and families live now-a-days, the public needs to have access to a site that offers easy-to-read journalism on topics that a relevant to them, and possibly have an effect on them personally. ProPublica successfully accomplishes all of the above arguments.



Propublica- Stephanie Kelly

Posted: February 2, 2011 by stephaniekelly10 in #3 Propublica


It’s hard to know who we can trust anymore. Everyone seems to have a secret they want to protect.

We see this daily in the media. Newspapers are plagued with headlines about corruption, whether it be in government or the corporate world. Someone needs to bring these stories into the public realm. That’s where organizations like Propublica come in. Propublica, the non-profit investigative news outlet, pride themselves on being “journalism in the public interest.”

In Brain Wars- How the Military is Failing its wounded, Propublica investigates how thousands of US soldiers suffering from brain injuries are not being properly diagnosed. It takes an interesting twist on America’s supposed support for those in uniform. The article targets the US military medical system for not properly diagnosing soldiers who suffer from traumatic brain wounds as a result of exposure to bombs. Most importantly, it brings to light the issue of brain injuries among US servicemen (and women) and the particular struggles they face for recognition and compensation.

Propublica certainly benefits the public. It is free, informative and easily accessible. This type of investigative journalism is an interesting phenomenon, because unlike other news corporations who entered the online world as a tactic to boost subscriptions, Propublica began as and remains a non-profit organization. Undoubtedly, one of the tenants of good journalism is to keep the powerful accountable and to shed light on injustices. The reality, however is that journalism is a business. We need to make profit, so we write what sells papers.

When I first read about Propublica and their innovative form of reporting, I was a bit sceptical. Delivering free news to the masses for the sake of public knowledge seemed a bit romantic. After taking a more in depth look at their stories, I was surprised at the quality of the writing and reporting. It offered a diverse selection of topics including business, the environment, politics and health. Topics are covered with a long list of well developed stories that offer several angles and voices on the subject.

As I scanned the website, I tried to figure out what distinguished this news source from the others. I realized that Propublica is like a documentary in print form. It tackles stories large, complex stories that require time and space not offered by a daily newspaper.






#3 Propublica – Sharon Fawcett

Posted: January 29, 2011 by sharonfawcett in #3 Propublica

A medical school can attempt to keep pharmaceutical companies from influencing future doctors by banning pharmaceutical reps from roaming the halls, or from offering swag and free lunches to students. However, when faculty members who teach the same students are secretly in Big Pharma’s pocket—earning up to six figures on the side by lecturing for them, in violation of university policies—what’s a respected educational institution to do? This is one of the issues covered by Propublica investigative journalists in their story, “Med Schools Flunk at Keeping Faculty Off Pharma Speaking Circuit.”

When those who teach doctors are tied to the pharmaceutical industry, future doctors can be influenced, or even taught fallacies about illnesses and their treatment. Vital objective, or scientifically supported, information may also be withheld from students.