Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Even More Watchdog Reporting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Even More Watchdog Reporting

Article excerpt

Byline: Frank Denton

Warriors for democracy.

That's how I think of them, the watchdog journalists who listen to tips and ideas, look for injustices and corruption, demand the public records, insist on open meetings, chase down reluctant sources and ask the tough questions, work into the night in search of trends, correlations, violations.

It's why we have the First Amendment and a free press.

More often than not, these reporters find something, assess its importance, put it in context, figure out how to explain it, get all sides of the story - and we put it on the front page and the home page, knowing the resulting public pressure will lead to cleanups of the problem, firings or resignations, criminal investigations, new laws or at least new procedures and safeguards.

Sometimes, they don't find anything. Then they file their notes, close the case and go on to something else. There's always something else.

Investigative reporters are at the heart of what the Times-Union does. We have some terrific ones, and we need some more.

So last week, we began a national search for three experienced investigative reporters. At least one of them will have database skills, since that's an important technique for project journalism.

They'll work in a newsroom with other reporters, editors, photojournalists, graphics people and others (including three more new hires - a digital-media editor, a business reporter/editor and an editorial writer).

Journalism quintessentially is a team activity. Every story is produced not only by a reporter but also by an assigning editor, one or more copy editors, page designers and visual journalists.

But the watchdog projects start with the reporter, armed only with a pen and a notebook.

Here are the qualifications we're seeking: educated, experienced, smart and savvy, principled, skilled at research, dogged, ambitious and caring. Oh yes, he or she has to be able to write.

We want people whose passion is The Story and who will do what's necessary - and legal and ethical - to get it.

I'm telling you about our staff expansion - after a couple years of constriction - because you want to know what we're doing with your $1 (OK, OK, $2 on Sunday).

Think about it: In Northeast Florida, only the Times-Union has the wherewithal and commitment to do serious, in-depth investigative and project journalism, which requires the investment of weeks or months of journalists' time, and often our lawyers and other expenses.

It was our two major reporting projects on homicide and crime that led to the Jacksonville Journey.

Our investigation of cronyism and profiteering at JaxPort steered the FBI and led to indictments and convictions.

You'll remember the ProLogic scandal, in which city contracts were awarded to friends of top city officials. …

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