In the wake of the economic crisis, local investigative journalism outlets are filling a gap left by mass newsroom layoffs and dwindling resources. We've rounded up some of the best reporting in recent weeks on the gaps in state healthcare coverage in Iowa to abuse in California's state education and the impact of a state ban on medication abortions in Wisconsin.
This award-winning investigative shop — founded by the prominent Center for Investigative Reporting, of the recent “Shooter” story fame, about the man who killed Osama bin Laden — boasts the largest number of journalists dedicated to investigative journalism in the state of California. No wonder then that California Watch reporter Ryan Gabrielson won a George Polk Award for State Reporting for his 18-month-long investigation “California Watch found that 36 disabled patients across the state's five centers reported they had been raped or molested by a caregiver and the Office of Protective Services did not investigate any of the cases. In one particularly egregious example, a caregiver tased a dozen patients with a stun gun, leaving thermal burns on their bodies. When OPS learned about the case, they made no arrest and only interviewed the suspect nine days after getting an anonymous tip about the caregiver, but didn't arrest or bring charges against anyone. The investigation led California lawmakers to call for a state audit of the centers and an investigation into OPS. In December, the Sonoma Developmental Center lost its primary license to operate after the California watch investigation ”documented incidents of abuse constituting immediate jeopardy, as well as actual serious threats to the physical safety of female clients in certain units,“ NBC News reported. California Watch co-sponsored a community forum with the Sonoma Index-Tribune to gather suggestions about how the center could better meet the needs of its patients.
Based in Norman, Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit center for public interest investigative journalism in the state. Their multi-part series was published on the website of the Oklahoman daily, NewsOK, and investigated healthcare options for the uninsured in Oklahoma after November 2012, when Governor Mary Fallin rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage in the state. The decision has left an estimated 130,000 low-income Oklahomans in a coverage void with few options for affordable healthcare. In this multi-part investigation, Oklahoma Watch surveyed the health options for these residents, and the results are rather grim. The stress has fallen on free health clinics and community centerslike the one at Pottawatomie County Health Department directed by Dorothea Copeland, who happens to be Fallin's aunt. The clinics are understaffed and overstretched for resources and patients often wait a week to see a doctor. The investigation, which began in January, exposed the broad impact of Fallin's rejection of critical resources for healthcare on the state's poorest communities.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Journalism & Mass Communication, works with mainstream outlets across the state, as well as public radio, television, and ethnic media across the nation. In January, the Center published an investigation that scrutinized the impact and consequences of a state ban on abortion pills. The law, Act 217, makes it a felony to give any medically-induced abortions without meeting certain requirements; Planned Parenthood, however, called these criteria ”unconstitutionally vague.“ By making a medical abortion harder to get, this law leaves many women with only one option, a surgical procedure, which may not be safe for some women with medical conditions.
This investigative shop is dedicated to producing collaborative investigative journalism aimed at residents of Southern California. A recent story revealed that untrained and low-paid officers in San Diego County's transit stations received no routine first aid/CPR training or training in the event of a train crash or terrorist attack, although their contracts with the county require them to be trained. The officers are employees with the Universal Protection Services, a company that is contracted to respond to incidents — suicides, automobile collisions, passengers fainting or experiencing a heart attack, collision investigations, power outages, and crowd control — at San Diego County's transit stations. They are often the first on the scene when any crime or incident takes place. But a series of interviews by iNewsSource revealed that the officers are unprepared for relatively routine situations like trespassers, aggressive train riders, or even emergency situations like how to deal with gunmen. In one instance, an officer tried to diffuse an escalating argument between another officer in training and a few angry men when he was punched in the jaw, leaving him with a fractured jawbone. In another, an officer shot and killed a 20-year-old man after a verbal argument became physical. The plaintiff alleged the officer was ”under-trained, incompetent and un-supervised.“ Universal Protection Services, the subject of a state investigation, is appealing a fine from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration for ”serious violations,“ among them lack of vaccinations and of personal safety devices, and poor training.