'California Watch' Launches First Investigation in 26 Papers

By: Joe Strupp California Watch, the new unit of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting, launched its first project today that is being used in at least 26 newspapers around the state.

Robert Rosenthal, CIR executive director, said the investigation into the use, and misuse, of homeland security funds in California is drawing more interest than he hoped.

"This exceeds our expectations," says Rosenthal, a former San Francisco Chronicle managing editor. "The goal is to get this out to small news organizations, not just the big ones."

But apparently big ones are using it as well. Rosenthal said newspapers running the piece by reporter G.W. Schulz include the San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Daily News, The Sacramento Bee, Orange County Register, Oakland Tribune and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He said even La Opinion in Los Angeles is publishing it in Spanish.

"We are seeing a big mix and I am sure it will reach an audience of well over one million-plus," he said.

Several newspapers, such as the Mercury News, ran the story on Page One, with credit to California Watch. It also includes a multimedia package of video and photos, along with versions for television and radio.

The story came out of an ongoing CIR investigation into homeland security funds, but targets California specifically. It reviews some $15 million in federal funding for California.

"We customized different versions for certain outlets and certain places in California," Rosenthal said. He said the story is also presented in three different lengths, 105 inches, 45 inches and 32 inches so newspapers can fit it in best. "We really took an issue and focused it on California."

California Watch formally began in June, with the majority of its funding from a Knight Foundation grant. This project first started through CIR six months ago. But it was taken over with a California angle by the new unit.


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