Dear friends of inewsource,
Our newsletter is back after two weeks of radio silence, while we encouraged staff members to take time off and finished the latest chapter in our rolling investigation on Mello-Roos taxes. The story has taken some significant twists. If you missed it on radio and television Monday, you’ll find details below with links to the full story. There is much more to come!
I’m eager to introduce you to the newest member of our staff. He’ll be packing up his car and driving west from Texas this weekend. We’ll share his bio, photo and list of impressive skills next week.
Hint: If you like data, you’ll love Joe!
Thank you for supporting inewsource. Show your enthusiasm for our work. Share this email!
The Mello-Roos taxation scheme created to allow developers to pass on infrastructure costs to homebuyers has taken some odd turns.
First, our interactive map letting homeowners compare their own Mello-Roos fees with those of their neighbors enabled some owners to figure out they’d been overcharged. A San Diego council member requested an independent audit.
Now Joanne Faryon has revealed that the Poway school district has amassed so much Mello-Roos money — $168 million — that it’s spending it questionably, often outside Mello-Roos districts. Unwittingly, Mello-Roos taxpayers have underwritten expenses ranging from a multimillion-dollar administration building down to lunches, which presumably don’t meet the superintendent’s rule of thumb that whatever you buy with Mello-Roos funds should last at least five years.
But here’s the kicker: In one Mello-Roos district where homeowners have paid thousands of dollars each year to support well-equipped new schools, overcrowding at the local school has forced kindergarteners from 55 families to attend an older school several miles away. At least its bathrooms and exterior have been upgraded — through the generosity of Mello-Roos taxpayers.
Thank you, Columbia Journalism Review
A successful inewsource experiment got favorable mention as “a novel approach” from Deron Lee in Columbia Journalism Review last week in “Four Ways to Make Big investigative Reports Work Better on the Web.” It cited Brad Racino’s two versions of a story about an auditor’s finding of deficiencies in North County Transit District’s contract management: an uncluttered one with very few hyperlinks and another with links to primary documents in nearly every sentence.
Lee also linked to Racino’s report that the heavily linked version got more and longer page-views and called this kind of extensive linking to source material “the best way to substantiate your reporting.”
It’s not easy being transparent
One of our priorities at inewsource is government accountability. Here’s some news on that front worth sharing:
The National Security Agency, which knows so much about so many of us, obviously doesn’t believe that turnabout is fair play.
Its own secrets about how it has violated privacy rules remain closely guarded, as ProPublica pointed out this week in “What NSA Transparency Looks Like.” It’s brief, but if you’re really short on time, just glance at the accompanying document the agency released in response to a Freedom of Information request from the ACLU.
That says it all. With more lines blacked out than revealed, the document sheds very little light on the agency, but its appearance does send a dark message about dwindling privacy, growing secrecy and the ever-challenging fight for transparency.
Truth matters. Help us find it.
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Editorial Standards Page
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- Unnamed Sources
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inewsource is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom dedicated to improving lives in the San Diego region and beyond through impactful, data-based investigative and accountability journalism.
Betrayals of the public trust are revealed and rectified, wrongdoing is deterred, and inequities are illuminated thanks to inewsource’s deep, dogged, fact-based reporting.
Truth: Above all else, we value the importance of a free and credible press. Truth is the cornerstone of democracy and the core value for inewsource.
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Community: Our reporting serves the San Diego region, and we strive to build relationships with our audience by getting out into the community to listen and engage.
inewsource will conduct its business with the highest standards of decency, fairness and accuracy. These standards shall apply equally to inewsource employees, freelancers and all others engaged in gathering information on behalf of inewsource. All receive a copy of these ethical standards.
In the course of our reporting, we will consistently:
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In addition, inewsource follows the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. The latest version, revised in 2014, can be found here.
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We subscribe to standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) as follows:
Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We will maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.
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Diverse Staffing Report
Below is a breakdown of staffing data at inewsource. We determine the composition of our staff by asking them to self-identify. It is based on a newsroom of 11 and a total staff of 15 as of August 2020. Percentages are based on 15 total survey responses. The numbers include full-time and part-time staff, full-time fellows and full-time and part-time interns.
Percentages are based on 15 total survey responses. The numbers include full-time and part-time staff, full-time fellows and full-time and part-time interns.
Percentages are based on 15 completed survey responses to this question.
Percentages are based on 15 completed survey responses to this question.
|Gender Identity||Gender Identity||Gender Identity|
|Sexual Orientation||Sexual Orientation||Sexual Orientation|
|Not specified||7%||Not specified||7%|
|Speak a language beyond English at home||33%||Speak a language beyond English at home||18%||Speak a language beyond English at home||75%|
|Hispanic or Latinx||20%||Two or more races||18%||Hispanic or Latinx||50%|
|Two or more races||13%||Hispanic or Latinx||9%|
|60 or older||13%||60 or older||9%||60 or older||25%|
* The percentages in the charts have been rounded and may not add up to 100.
Ownership Structure, Funding and Grants
inewsource is a nonprofit organization, whose legal name is Investigative Newsource. It does business as inewsource. The business was incorporated on Aug. 4, 2009 in the state of California. Tax-exempt status as a 501c3 was granted by the IRS on Sept. 15, 2010. inewsource is funded primarily by individual contributions and foundation grants. We are guided by a board of directors.
Editorial independence: Journalists employed by inewsource take no editorial direction from donors whose contributions may support the organization. inewsource will not hesitate to report on its donors when events warrant. Our Editorial Independence Policy details the firewall between journalism and revenue.
To be transparent with the public, inewsource lists its donors on its website. In cases where a donor is the subject of an inewsource story, additional disclosure will be made.
We do our due diligence to earn your trust in our reporting, as well as in our governance and financial sustainability. All of our financial documents are made available to view so that our supporters can trust we are sound stewards of your philanthropy. Review our IRS Form 990s, audited financial statements and annual reports:
Transparency is one of our core values. Today, there is a need to build trust with our audience because new media and ways of communicating spread lies and slanted news faster than “real” news. At the same time, this era of new technologies makes it easier than ever for news organizations to be transparent. People don’t just have to believe us, they can investigate our investigations with our source materials.
Transparency is key to building credibility.
inewsource reporters have primary responsibility for reporting, writing, and fact-checking their stories. But before a story is published, the reporter reviews all facts and sources with an editor or another reporter. Facts must be traced to a primary source.
In addition, we “transparify” certain investigative stories. This process involves publishing a version of the web story with hyperlinks to all the story’s facts. This is proof that all facts have been documented with primary evidence. We do this to build trust with our readers and to be as transparent as we hope the public figures and institutions that we hold accountable will be.
Not all sources are created equal. Some sources cannot speak authoritatively, provide proper analysis or speak specifically to every inquiry placed before them. To maintain the integrity of our reporting, inewsource reporters must select sources who can speak with validity to the topic at hand, and avoid presenting unqualified or underqualified sources as experts.
If an interviewed source has a conflict of interest, or whose qualifications may be tangential or limited, reporters will note that within the context of the story.
It is incumbent upon reporters to fully background their sources to uncover conflicts of interest or slant prior to using them in a story.
Unless discussed prior to an interview, all subjects talking to inewsource journalists are on the record. Specifically, the source is identified by name and title, and their exact or paraphrased words are attributed to them for publication. If journalists speak with sources who are not politicians, public figures or those not commonly interviewed by journalists, staff should explain clearly that information discussed will be on the record and for publication.
If inewsource publishes information from an anonymous source, inewsource will explain to readers, in as much detail as possible, why we agreed to anonymity.
inewsource strives for accuracy in everything we do, which is why we are committed to fact checking our content. But sometimes we make errors. When that happens, we correct them. We also clarify stories when something we’ve written is confusing or could be misinterpreted.
We endeavor to always be transparent about our commitment to correcting errors and clarifying misperceptions. When staffers see, hear or read about a possible issue with the accuracy of any inewsource content, they are expected to bring it to the attention of an editor and the web producer so it can be evaluated to determine how to proceed.
Including the web producer is key because inewsource is a multimedia news organization and shares its content with multiple partners on multiple platforms. The web producer must alert these partners about corrections and clarifications.
Corrections and clarifications should be included at the bottom of stories and dated.
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Our audiences know the region we cover and have a stake in maintaining and improving the quality of life in San Diego and Imperial counties. We know your knowledge and insights can help shape what we cover and how we cover it. We invite your comments and complaints on news stories, suggestions for issues to cover or sources to consult. We rely on you to tell us when we get it right and when we need to keep pushing.
Your comments, questions and suggestions can be sent to the team as a whole at email@example.com or you can contact a specific member of our staff.
CEO, Editor and Founder: Lorie Hearn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorie Hearn is the chief executive officer, editor and founder of inewsource. She founded inewsource in the summer of 2009, following a successful reporting and editing career in newspapers. She retired from The San Diego Union-Tribune, where she had been a reporter, Metro Editor and finally the senior editor for Metro and Watchdog Journalism. In addition to department oversight, Hearn personally managed a four-person watchdog team, composed of two data specialists and two investigative reporters. Hearn was a Nieman Foundation fellow at Harvard University in 1994-95. She focused on juvenile justice and drug control policy, a natural course to follow her years as a courts and legal affairs reporter at the San Diego Union and then the Union-Tribune.
Hearn became Metro Editor in 1999 and oversaw regional and city news coverage, which included the city of San Diego’s financial debacle and near bankruptcy. Reporters and editors on Metro during her tenure were part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning stories that exposed Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham and led to his imprisonment.
Hearn began her journalism career as a reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times, a small daily outside of Philadelphia, shortly after graduating from the University of Delaware. During the decades following, she moved through countless beats at five newspapers on both coasts.
High-profile coverage included the historic state Supreme Court election in 1986, when three sitting justices were ousted from the bench, and the 1992 execution of Robert Alton Harris. That gas chamber execution was the first time the death penalty was carried out in California in 25 years.
In her nine years as Metro Editor at the Union-Tribune, Hearn made watchdog reporting a priority. Her reporters produced award-winning investigations covering large and small local governments. The depth and breadth of their public service work was most evident in coverage of the wildfires of 2003 and then 2007, when more than half a million people were evacuated from their homes.
Managing Editor: Laura Wingard, email@example.com
Laura Wingard is the managing editor at inewsource. She has been an editor in San Diego since 2002, working at The San Diego Union-Tribune, KPBS and now inewsource. At the Union-Tribune, she served in a variety of roles including as enterprise editor, government editor, public safety and legal affairs editor, and metro editor. She directed the newspaper’s award-winning coverage of the October 2007 wildfires and the 2010 disappearance of Poway teenager Chelsea King. She also oversaw reporting on San Diego’s pension crisis.
For two years, Wingard was news and digital editor at KPBS, overseeing a team of four multimedia reporters and two web producers. She also was the KPBS liaison with inewsource and collaborated with inewsource chief executive officer and editor Lorie Hearn on investigative work by both news organizations.
Wingard also worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal as the city editor and as an award-winning reporter covering the environment and politics. She also was the assistant managing editor for metro at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside. She earned her bachelor’s degree at California State University, Fullerton, with a double major in communications/journalism and political science.
Assistant Editor and Senior Reporter: Brad Racino, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad Racino is the assistant editor and a senior reporter at inewsource. He has produced investigations for print, radio and TV on topics including political corruption, transportation, health, maritime, education and nonprofits.
His cross-platform reporting for inewsource has earned more than 50 awards since 2012, including back-to-back national medals from Investigative Reporters and Editors, two national Edward R. Murrow awards, a Meyer “Mike” Berger award from New York City’s Columbia Journalism School, the Sol Price Award for Responsible Journalism, San Diego SPJ’s First Amendment Award, and a national Emmy nomination.
In 2017, Racino was selected by the Institute for Nonprofit News as one of 10 “Emerging Leaders” in U.S. nonprofit journalism.
Racino has worked as a reporter and database analyst for News21; as a photographer, videographer and reporter for the Columbia Missourian; as a project coordinator for the National Freedom of Information Coalition and as a videographer and editor for Verizon Fios1 TV in New York. He received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 2012.
Most of our articles carry a byline to identify the author. In some cases, inewsource will use a brand byline such as “Staff” or “inewsource” for internal or editorial information about the newsroom. In these instances, inewsource‘s Editor and Managing Editor are responsible for content that uses a brand byline.
inewsource is proud to be a member of The Trust Project and support efforts to increase transparency in journalism by displaying the 8 Trust Indicators on our stories. We launched the Trust Indicators on Sep. 16, 2020.
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