Investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations have increasingly come to see it as a luxury. Today’s investigative reporters lack resources: Time and budget constraints are curbing the ability of journalists not specifically designated “investigative” to do this kind of reporting in addition to their regular beats. New models are, therefore, necessary to carry forward some of the great work of journalism in the public interest that is such an integral part of self-government, and thus an important bulwark of our democracy.
Nonprofit investigative journalism organization based in New York City
ProPublica (/proʊˈpʌblɪkə/), legally Pro Publica, Inc., is a nonprofit organization based in New York City. It is a newsroom that aims to produce investigative journalism in the public interest. In 2010, it became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize, for a piece written by one of its journalists and published in The New York Times Magazine as well as on ProPublica.org. ProPublica states that its investigations are conducted by its staff of full-time investigative reporters, and the resulting stories are distributed to news partners for publication or broadcast. In some cases, reporters from both ProPublica and its partners work together on a story. ProPublica has partnered with more than 90 different news organizations, and it has won five Pulitzer Prizes.
Coming into this, when I talked to Herb and Marion Sandler, one of my concerns was precisely this question of independence and nonpartisanship ... My history has been doing "down the middle" reporting. And so when I talked to Herb and Marion I said "Are you comfortable with that?" They said, "Absolutely." I said, "Well, suppose we did an exposé of some of the left leaning organizations that you have supported or that are friendly to what you've supported in the past."They said, "No problem." And when we set up our organizational structure, the board of directors, on which I sit and which Herb is the chairman, does not know in advance what we're going to report on.
ProPublica had an initial news staff of 28 reporters and editors, including Pulitzer Prize winners Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, Jeff Gerth, and Marcus Stern, but has since grown to 34 full-time working journalists. Steiger claimed that he received as many as 850 applications upon ProPublica's start. The organization also appointed a 12-member journalism advisory board consisting of professional journalists.
ProPublica has attracted attention for the salaries it pays its employees. In 2008, Paul Steiger, the editor of ProPublica, received a salary of $570,000. Steiger was formerly the managing editor at The Wall Street Journal, where his total compensation (including options) was double that at ProPublica. Steiger's stated strategy is to use a Wall Street Journal pay model to attract journalistic talent. In 2010, eight ProPublica employees made more than $160,000, including managing editor Stephen Engelberg ($343,463) and the highest-paid reporter, Dafna Linzer, formerly of the Washington Post ($205,445).
In 2011, ProPublica won its second Pulitzer Prize. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their series, The Wall Street Money Machine. This was the first time a Pulitzer was awarded to a group of stories not published in print.
In 2016, ProPublica won its third Pulitzer Prize, this time for Explanatory Reporting, in collaboration with The Marshall Project for "a startling examination and exposé of law enforcement's enduring failures to investigate reports of rape properly and to comprehend the traumatic effects on its victims."
In 2019, Peabody Awards honored ProPublica with the first-ever Peabody Catalyst Award for releasing audio in 2018 that brought immediate change to a controversial government practice of family separation at the southern border.
Also in 2019, ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreier was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for her series that followed immigrants on Long Island whose lives were shattered by a botched crackdown on MS-13.
In December 2012 and January 2013, ProPublica published and reported on confidential pending applications for groups requesting tax-exempt status. In May 2013, after widespread coverage of allegations that the IRS had inappropriately targeted conservative groups, ProPublica clarified that it obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request, writing, "In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public." ProPublica reported on six of them, after deeming information within those applications to be newsworthy.
ProPublica conducted a large-scale, circumscribed investigation on Psychiatric Solutions, a company based in Tennessee that buys failing hospitals, cuts staff, and accumulates profit. The report covered patient deaths at numerous Psychiatric Solutions facilities, the failing physical plant at many of their facilities, and covered the State of Florida's first closure of Manatee Palms Youth Services, which has since been shut down  by Florida officials once again. Their report was published in conjunction with the Los Angeles Times.
In 2017, ProPublica launched the Documenting Hate project for systematic tracking of hate crimes and bias incidents. The project is part of their Civil Rights beat, and allows victims or witnesses of hate crime incidents to submit stories. The project also allows journalists and newsrooms to partner with ProPublica to write stories based on the dataset they are collecting. For example, the Minneapolis Star Tribune partnered with ProPublica to write about reporting of hate crimes in Minnesota.
In 2015, ProPublica launched Surgeon Scorecard, an interactive database that allows users to view complication rates for eight common elective procedures. The tool allows users to find surgeons and hospitals, and see their complication rates. The database was controversial, drawing criticism from doctors and prompting a critique from RAND. However, statisticians, including Andrew Gelman, stood behind their decision to attempt to shine light on an opaque aspect of the medical field, and ProPublica offered specific rebuttals to RAND's claims.
Tracking evictions and rent stabilization in New York City
ProPublica has created an interactive map that allows people to search for addresses in New York City to see the effects of eviction cases. The app was nominated for a Livingston Award.
Taxes paid by wealthiest Americans
In June 2021, after receiving leaked, hacked, or stolenIRS documents, ProPublica published a report which showed that tax rates for the wealthiest Americans were significantly lower than the average middle class tax rate, when considering unrealized capital gains as being equivalent to earned income. ProPublica would later reveal that technology investor and political donor Peter Thiel legally earned over $5 billion in a tax-free Roth IRA account through his investments in private companies.
On June 9, Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers that investigating the source of the release would be a top priority for the Justice Department.
Public academic Henry Louis Gates Jr. sits on the board.
^Miller, T Christian; Armstrong, Ken (December 16, 2015). "An Unbelievable Story of Rape". ProPublica and The Marshall Project. Archived from the original on July 18, 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
NEW YORK, NY 10013-0000 | Tax-exempt since Feb. 2008
Classification (NTEE) Arts, Cultural Organizations - Multipurpose (Arts, Culture and Humanities)
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.
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