By: Charles Bowen

Center For Public Integrity Keeps Investigative Journalists Informed

To get started, visit the site at http://www.public-i.org

You know you’re a political wonk when you’re disappointed that
our seemingly endless presidential election did end after all.
Going through political withdrawal?

Let the Web get you re-wired. The Public i, brought to us by the
highly regarded Center for Public Integrity, is devoted to
investigative journalism, with particular emphasis on party
machines, lobbyists, and special interests. It’s a great place
for columnists and editorial page editors to get their synapses
firing again and for reporters and assignment editors to find
ideas for localizing major political stories.

Some people think “hardball” politics is just talking heads
interrupting one another on TV. This is where you find out what
real hardball is all about: It has less to do with spin, and a
lot more to do with issues, paper trails, voting records,
financial reports, and freedom-of-information requests.

And though The Public i Web site is relatively new, it comes from
established journalistic roots. The Center for Public Integrity
was founded in 1990 by former “60 Minutes” producer Charles Lewis
to promote independent, nonpartisan investigative reporting.
Today, it has a staff of 30 reporters and researchers who, freed
from the constraints of daily reporting, are devoted to rooting
out crime, corruption, unethical conduct, and malfeasance in
public life, politics, and business.

The Web site is the electronic extension of The Public i print
publication, which the center launched in 1994. It is perhaps
best known for its 1996 “Fat Cat Hotel” story, which was the
first to expose the Clinton administration’s use of overnight
White House stays to reward rich political patrons.

To explore the center’s work online, visit the site at http://www.public-i.org, where
the frequently updated introductory screen summarizes the best of
the new material. Featured in the middle of the screen are links
to the center’s own reports, while along the right-hand column
are connections to investigative reports in other publications.

Of particular interest to local papers will be “The 50 States
Project,” an ongoing state-by-state analysis, says the site, “of
lawmakers’ conflicts of interest, based on their sources of
income and assets, committee assignments, leadership positions,
and legislative duties.” Scroll the introductory page to find and
click the “50 States” link. The site then presents a new top page
of its latest findings and a search box that enables you to scan
the files for specific states.

Along the top of the introductory screen are links to other major
portions of the site, including “Center Commentary,” which hooks
you up with columns and recent speeches by officials with the
center. Also there is the “Subscribe” button, which you can use
to sign up for the free Public i e-mail newsletter. You’ll be
prompted for your e-mail address.

Need to search the site’s resources? A “Search” button on the top
of the main screen lets you enter a keyword or phrase in the
resulting data-entry box and click the “Go” button. The site
presents a collection of hyperlinked headlines of stories
containing your search phrase.

Other considerations in using The Public i for your writing and
o The site also regularly adds special reports and features,
usually spotlighted on the introductory page. For instance, at
the time of this writing, the site had a link to a downloadable
copy of its report called, “Off the Record: What Media
o Corporations Don’t Tell You About Their Legislative Agenda.” It
also had just started its “Bush-Cheney Archive.”
o The site has “Letters to the Editor” and “From the Editor,”
both listed among links displayed on the left column of the
introductory page.
o Also on the left column is a link to “527s/Issue Ad Watch,” a
new regular feature that follows issue advocacy groups, their
agendas, and secret donors. The center reports on groups
conducting issue ad campaigns.

Bowen writes columns, articles and books from West Virginia, and is host of the daily Internet News syndicated radio show (http://www.netnewstoday.com).

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher

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