Monday, May 23, 2011

Corruption Index -- Melding Journalist, Citizen Cooperation for Investigative Journalism!

It has been a little while since I last checked in, but I do have something exciting to share. PRI, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity ( and Global Integrity ( is embarking on an adventure combining investigative journalism, crowdsourcing, and government transparency and effectiveness, all in one package, the Corruption Index. (We announced this project a couple of months ago and are currently hiring positions to help make this happen.) The Omidyar Network and the Rita Allen Foundation are our primary funders for this project.

The Project will hire political reporters in every state capital and rank the 50 states for susceptibility to corruption and will use the methodology developed by Global Integrity which previously developed a ranking system at a nation-state level, evaluating countries on key indicators that are essential to mitigate corruption. These learnings will be translated at a state-level. For example, political financing laws, civil service management and state budget processes will be reviewed. The project team will also create online data, reporting and technology tools to empower citizens to demand greater transparency and effectiveness.

PRI will work with its 880 partner radio stations and key national programs like PRI's The World to inspire people through crowdsourcing and social media to take part in the project and spread the results.

Its like an evolving, organic and living investigative journalism project in partnership with the public. I will give updates as we learn from this ambitious effort and will share the victories, failures, and learnings!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mobile Texting to Tell Stories May Be "Mightier than the Sword" - Update

If you regularly read my blog, you understand my desire to break new ground in the use of technology to transform who is telling stories (new voices) and how these stories can be told in the news media in powerful ways.

In terms of texting, this desire goes far beyond the way that some content creators are using this two-way communications vehicle to ask if the "audience" likes something, or to vote this way or that. I am interested in how texting can be used to ascertain stories, perspectives and data that we would not have had otherwise, i.e., texting for crowd sourcing to add voices, context and relevance.

In our program The Takeaway, which is co owned and produced by PRI and WNYC in collaboration with the BBC World Service, The New York Times and WGBH Radio Boston, made great strides in pushing this forward in 2010, through its Detriot and Miami texting projects, and won a Knight-Batten Award for Innovation for these efforts.

To read more about the details of these projects, see my post from last year here.

Now for the update that I have been meaning to post for some time. As you may recall, the big issue unearthed by our texting project in Mexicantown in Southwest Detroit was the fact that illegal truck traffic regularly barrelled through this neighborhood that sits on the border of the US and Canada, with the Ambassador Bridge as the primary artery. The neighborhood community has blamed the bridge and truck traffic for significant noise, congestion, high asthma rates, accidents/safety hazards and other quality of life issues.

Trucking companies and the company that owns the bridge, the Detroit International Bridge Company, had come under some pressure, in part from our work to ascertain this issue, which had not been extensively covered in the media. The Takeaway and the local public radio station, WDET, got people together and used texting over the course of the project to text in license plates of trucks which were causing the issues so the community could develop plans to address and dialogue could begin. We told stories locally in partnership with WDET, and nationally had a dialogue on our program about transportation, affects on communities, and heard from voices on the ground.

UPDATE: Last summer it was announced that the Detroit International Bridge Company, "extended an olive branch" by donating over $200,000 to open an expanded health center in the community.

This is a great example of how technology can be an integral part in creating a virtuous loop of storytelling, discovery and data that can enlighten, inform, and impact the world for the better.