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5 stars
High quality journalism investigating systemic, large-scale abuse in public and private institutions

What is integrity? We expect governments to act in the public interest, to root out corruption, to uphold the rule of law. We expect businesses to follow the law, to pay their fair share of taxes, to not abuse their power. We expect nonprofits to act in accordance with their mission, to avoid wastefulness, to be transparent.

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) is an investigative journalism nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that’s dedicated to documenting abuses of power in these and other institutions. It defines itself as nonpartisan and has indeed conducted many investigations across the political spectrum.

Although its name and location might suggest a “think tank” type organization, CPI is fully focused on producing journalism – often published in partnership with other news outlets.

Funding and Executive Compensation

Founded in 1989, CPI had revenue of about $9M in 2015. According to its Annual Report, almost all of its revenue comes from grants and donations. Most of its support comes from large gifts and grants (many from the typical foundations that fund journalistic work); in 2016, CPI received $210K in donations smaller than $250.

As of November 2016, CPI’s CEO is John Dunbar, an investigative journalist and CPI veteran. Because of the recency of his appointment, compensation information is not available yet; his predecessor received $301K from the Center in 2015, which is squarely in the middle between ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting in terms of executive compensation.

CPI states: “We maintain a strict firewall between funding and our editorial content.” It publishes its editorial standards which include a requirement for full disclosure of conflicts of interest, and a commitment to avoid such conflicts where possible.

Reporting

Compared with ProPublica and CIR, CPI has a stronger focus on institutions, both public and private. With regard to government, since 2001, no news organization other than the New York Times has filed more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits than CPI, according to a report by the FOIA project. These types of lawsuits are necessary to challenge government over-classification of materials.

The recent CPI report regarding what amounts to a massive gift to the insurance industry by the taxpayer-funded Medicare program is an example of an investigation that was made possible through a FOIA lawsuit.

CPI investigates both Republicans and Democrats, and I was not able to detect a bias towards either group. The report on ambassador postings for donors to the Obama campaign is a good example of data-driven journalism targeting the Obama administration, while CPI also reported in detail on the perks and access offered to big donors to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Businesses are far from immune from CPI’s investigations. In 2014, CPI received a Pulitzer prize for an investigation which revealed “how doctors and lawyers working at the behest of the coal industry helped defeat benefit claims of coal miners who were sick and dying of black lung disease.”

After the 2008 financial crisis, CPI published some of the most in-depth reporting on the links between banks that received bailout money and the subprime lenders that caused the crisis. Through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which it launched in 1997 and which it houses, CPI has helped bring about the most important investigations into tax havens and offshore banking in recent history, including the Panama Papers investigation.

CPI publishes a running log of all corrections.

Website, Licensing

CPI’s website is easy to read and offers section views for its primary ongoing investigative domains (e.g., politics, business, environment). The content is not sensationalized, and as with other investigative sites, you’re probably more likely to read an investigation of interest to you through a social media or RSS feed than by going directly to the site. Content is generally in text form, and the site looks reasonable on mobile devices.

Donation appeals are visible but not annoying. Stories use Facebook comments as a discussion system; commenting guidelines are buried in the terms of use, and I did not see evidence of moderation (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen). Content is under conventional copyright and sometimes cross-published to other news media. In general, CPI is a cathedral-style journalistic organization with limited community engagement.

The Verdict

I would recommend CPI without reservations for your RSS or social media feed. The institutional focus distinguishes it from ProPublica and CIR, and this focus has led it to dig into some of the largest scale, most systemic abuses in areas such as the financial services industry. Its incubation of the International Committee for Investigative Journalists was a brilliant move in that regard, since many of the most complex tax avoidance schemes are international in nature. This makes CPI/ICIJ truly indispensable.

It’s not surprising that an organization with “Integrity” in the name does a good job with organizational transparency. Financial documents and annual reports are easy to find, and the donor information is comprehensive. In spite of all these editorial and operational strengths, CPI still has a relatively small online presence – 74K followers on Twitter, 83K on Facebook.

Doing more to engage (and involve!) readers through these channels without compromising on its strengths may help build a larger audience, which in turn may translate to more bottom-up funding. Given that CPI, ProPublica and CIR are all nonpartisan, we might also hope for more collaboration between them in future.

Because of of its high impact business and government investigations, I give CPI 4.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up. It is now also in the Twitter list of quality nonprofit media.

Posted under: Nonprofit Media

4 stars
Pura delícia, mas prepare seu bolso pt

Alt text
Fonte: Instagram

Local bastante agradável, com temática surfista e cozinha 100% vegana. Há uma loja com artigos a venda e o local também aluga caiaques para quem quiser se divertir no Canal da Joatinga. É uma casa modesta, mas bem decorada e com um ar bastante descontraído e relaxante.

A comida em si é deliciosa, embora venha em relativamente pouca quantidade. O preço também é bem salgado: pedindo uma porção de petiscos (bolinhos de feijoada), o prato do dia e mais a bebida já é suficiente para atingir a marca dos R$45, então certamente não é um restaurante para se ir com frequência.

Apesar de tudo, vale muito a pena conhecer, degustar e prestigiar um dos poucos espaços veganos na cidade. Aproveite para ir em uma ocasião especial e ganhe alguns mimos do gerente ;)

Posted under: Veg(etari)an

4 stars
Demanding but solid science overviews by a high school teacher

Bozeman Science is one of those YouTube channels you probably have never heard of that’s managed to become very, very popular. As of this writing, it boasts more than 500,000 subscribers, and its most popular videos (e.g., “A Tour of the Cell”). have been viewed millions of times. It is run by Paul Andersen, a high school teacher and education consultant from Bozeman, Montana (a small US city known as the location of the first contact between humans and Vulcans, at least if you watch Star Trek).

Many of the videos are on subjects relevant to biology: photosynthesis, cellular respiration, gene regulation, gene editing with CRISPR, and so on. Andersen also explores topics in chemistry, physics, statistics, and – especially recently – education itself. For example, one video introduces the educational practice of modeling instruction, where students are asked to develop their own models to explain how a scientific phenomenon works, which they then reason about with other students and the teacher.

These videos do require focused attention and a willingness to research the occasional bit of jargon. Andersen moves relatively quickly through his content, so although a video might only be 5 minutes long, you might have to watch it 2-3 times and consult some additional materials to “get it”. That’s not really frustrating, since Andersen has the calm and confident voice of a good teacher and is easy to listen to.

The videos use plenty of illustrations, and Andersen takes pains to overlay textual corrections to note errors in the original recording. If you’re going to check out one of his videos, I would make it the introduction to CRISPR gene editing, since it remains a very relevant topic and is also a good example of his teaching style.

Andersen relies on donations to support his work, but he does not appear to have plans to turn it into a larger franchise like Khan Academy. As it is, if you’re into science (or prepping for exams), I recommend subscribing to the channel and checking in from time to time for topics that may interest you.

Posted under: Edu by Video

4 stars
Like ProPublica, CIR/Reveal investigates abuse and wrongdoing in all sectors of society

In 1977, long before the Internet gave new life to nonprofit media, Bay Area journalists David Weir, Dan Noyes, and Lowell Bergman founded the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in Oakland, CA. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to create investigative journalism that “sparks action, improve lives and protects our democracy”.

It did so initially by working primarily with other news outlets. A first major collaboration was a 1978 exposé by Kate Coleman and Paul Avery regarding the Black Panther Party and its involvement in organized crime, including murder. Since then, CIR has produced deep investigations about all sectors of society, for example:

CIR has received numerous journalism awards, including a Peabody, and the organization was a finalist for a Pulitzer prize in 2012 for its investigation of earthquake safety of California schools.

This focus on wrongdoing in any part of society makes it similar to the younger, NYC-based ProPublica, and indeed, in many ways, CIR is its West Coast counterpart. The two organizations had nearly the exact same amount of revenue in 2014 ($10,324,242 vs. $10,324,275) and draw funding from similar sources, primarily foundations and major gifts.

Unlike ProPublica, CIR does not provide a breakdown of its revenue by source, but it does provide a list of supporters, which includes Gates, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Open Society Foundations, Hewlett, MacArthur, Knight, and many of the other big names in philanthropy. An editorial independence policy is meant to make it clear that such support does not influence reporting.

One notable difference between the two is executive compensation. CIR pays its Executive Director a total of $232K, while ProPublica’s highest compensated “co-executive” makes $429K. CIR does not publish an Annual Report, but it does use an open source impact measuring tool to produce whitepapers documenting the real world effects of some of its most notable investigations.

As an older organization, CIR had to transform itself for the Internet. It now publishes its investigations on Reveal, which features in-depth reporting, podcast episodes, videos, and occasional data journalism. The grouping of investigations (e.g., “Hidden abuses under the watchtower” for its Jehovah’s Witnesses investigation) makes the current focus areas reasonably clear.

While it utilizes text, audio and video for its reporting, in many other respects, Reveal is very old school. There is no commenting system, content is under conventional copyright (as opposed to a Creative Commons License), and the heading “Get involved” only leads to an ask for donations.

The Verdict

As with ProPublica, the universal search for abuse (and the heavy reliance on conventional funding) can make it harder to address system-level issues such as inequality, climate change, electoral injustice, or mass incarceration. Efforts like CIR’s are therefore no substitute for values-driven journalism that provides consistent emphasis on systemic injustice.

On the other hand, the Center’s investigations into all sectors of society do help people to learn about (and act on) abuse and wrongdoing within their communities. On that basis, I recommend following Reveal, and the feed is now part of the Twitter list of quality nonprofit media. 4 out of 5 stars.

Posted under: Nonprofit Media

4 stars
All the news that fits inside the Overton window

David Brooks and Mark Shields on PBS NewsHour
Journalists like David Brooks and Mark Shields provide background on the news, reflecting a general bias of sourcing (85% male, 85% white) that has been consistently documented.

NewsHour is the flagship public television news program in the United States, distributed by PBS and produced as a collaboration between key member stations. As with all public broadcasting in the US, it relies on a mix of funding that includes government support, corporate underwriting, foundations, major donors, and small donors. PBS programs are subject to funding standards, and an ombudsman serves as a verbose internal critic.

Executive compensation at some member stations reaches excessive levels by nonprofit standards – nearly $600K for WNET CEO Neal Shapiro (WNET co-produces NewsHour). This is a reflection of competition for talent with for-profit media (Shapiro was previously the President of NBC) and the large organizational size, but still merits scrutiny as it can reinforce leadership trading within a media oligopoly as opposed to the development of a unique nonprofit media leadership path.

NewsHour made its debut as a nightly news program in 1983. It features headlines, interviews, and some in-depth reporting. Episodes can be streamed online, and segments of the program are routinely transcribed. Probably the biggest difference with for-profit news programs is tone, not content. The program projects a sense of respectful, calm, civil engagement with the issues of the day. That’s no small thing in an era where networks like CNN employ extreme partisans just to shout at each other. Of course, it can also contribute to normalization of extremes.

As far as content is concerned, NewsHour does generally take a longer, more global view than many other news programs. It routinely features topics from US history, developments in other cultures, and so on. The commitment to balance that’s part of the public broadcasting mandate typically translates to having a center-left and a center-right guest on the show for purposes of analysis (such as the Brooks and Corn / Shields and Brooks programs).

Studies both by progressive media criticism organization FAIR and by independent researchers have consistently shown that the sources NewsHour consults for expertise and interviews are 85% male, 85% white (the US is about 72% white), and about 45% government. Public interest sources, think tanks, and corporate sources are each sourced about 4-5% of the time.

That means organizations that are deeply familiar with topics like the drug war, voter suppression, the arms trade, etc., are rarely put on the air to talk about them. In its selection of core stories of the day, NewsHour also largely mirrors the choices of other news programs. There are exceptions, such its recent in-depth feature on the under-reported United States prison strikes, which is also notable in being singular.

Findings of multiple NewsHour studies
From Scott et al.: FAIR and the PBS NewsHour: Assessing Diversity and Elitism in News Sourcing. Communication Quarterly Vol. 58 , Iss. 3, 2010

The program exists in the larger context of public broadcasting in the US, which is frequently the target of efforts to either politicize or defund it. While government funding has its perils, the reliance on major donors and corporate underwriters also comes at a cost. Most significantly, Jane Meyer of the New Yorker exposed in 2013 how PBS member stations got cold feet about programs putting the spotlight on a major donor and trustee, David Koch of the infamous Koch Brothers.

Given this combined political and corporate influence, a program like NewsHour is likely to stay firmly within the Overton window in its reporting: views that are “too radical” either on the left or on the right will rarely be aired. But of course the window isn’t fixed – it remains to be seen how NewsHour will deal with the normalization of hate, and with politics under President Donald Trump.

The Verdict

For the time being, I still recommend NewsHour with reservations, since it at least leans towards public interest reporting rather than pure ratings-driven entertainment. It is a good bellwether of elite opinion, and provides more nuanced and careful analysis than any other centrist US news program I’ve seen.

3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up. If you follow our Twitter list of quality nonprofit media, you will get updates from NewsHour alongside more political and adversarial sources like Mother Jones, The Intercept, and Democracy Now!, as well as the academic perspectives from The Conversation.

Posted under: Nonprofit Media

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