ProPublica Site Launches With Investigation and Scandal

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By: Joe Strupp

ProPublica, the investigative brainchild of former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger, launched its new Web site with a mix of original stories, links to other news outlets, and its new “Scandal Watch.”

“We are very pleased, it is a journey of many miles and we have taken the first step,” Steiger, editor in chief of ProPublica, said Wednesday, a day after launching the news outlet’s Web site. “I’m thrilled, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Funded with some $10 million in annual pledged donations from a mix of contributors, ProPublica has vowed to create investigative journalism for a variety of news outlets, as well as aggregate such coverage on its Web site. So far, 21 staffers have been hired, with about 15 on the job. Steiger expects a total of 26 or 27 by the end of the month to complete the staffing demands.

With Tuesday’s launch of the site, Propublica.org, the news non-profit posted several original stories focused on Russian-linked lobbying and international health agencies. Links to outside stories ranged from those at Vanity Fair to the Associated Press, but each with an investigative tone.

“Each day, we scour the world for investigative reporting,” Steiger said. “We provide a headline, a link and, for some of them, we do added reporting in a blog-like format. Additional reporting can put it into context.”

One prominent feature of the Web site is the “Scandal Watch,” which posts links to ongoing coverage of five issues or investigations, Steiger said. On Wednesday, those included: detainee treatment, earmarks abuse, military contractor abuse, sub-prime mortgage rates, and John McCain’s lobbyist connections.

“We pick five stories that we think are worth following,” Steiger explained. “It may or may not turn out to be a scandal, it can be a potential scandal that we are going to see turn out.”

The most prominent work of the news organization, however, is yet to come in the form of major investigative projects that will be created with other news outlets.

“We haven’t provided any deep dive stuff of our own yet, but there are several already in the works,” Steiger said. “We expect our first project to appear toward the end of June on one of the major television news shows.” But he would not provide more specifics.

Steiger also pointed out that any of ProPublica’s original content on the web site is free to be used by other news outlets with proper credit: “We have rules for what you are supposed to do, but we do not charge for it.”

He stressed that one of the missions of the news organization is to make sure investigative efforts are followed through to complete in-depth reporting. “An awful lot of good investigative reporting does not have the impact it could have because there is not enough follow-up,” he said.

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