The Weekender for August 25

The Weekender for August 25

We are excited to introduce our newest investigative reporter, Alain Stephens, who started his first week at inewsource.

Alain first got into journalism as a reporter and producer at KUT, the NPR station in Austin, Texas. There he produced segments for the one-hour daily news show the “Texas Standard” before moving on to investigative work. He was a 2016 Reveal Investigative Fellow, where he spent over a year exposing the practice of police agencies selling used weapons that were later used in crimes. He’s also served in the U.S. Coast Guard and Air Force. This week I sat down with Alain to ask him a few questions:

What are some of the biggest challenges investigative reporters face?

A lack of outrage. The public has been bombarded so much with corruption or malfeasance that there isn’t as much shock to it anymore. It’s not to say people don’t care about what’s going on, it’s just hard to take it all in sometimes. But that outrage also spawns action, it pushes people to speak up or speak out. As a reporter, we rely on that for accountability.”  

How do you find stories?

A lot of phone calls. Just a metric ton of them. You will eventually find someone who tells you something you’ve never heard before. I genuinely work off of human intelligence. People are the secret ingredient.

You’re interested in criminal justice reporting. What excites you about it?

I chose to look at criminal justice because it’s the part of the government that can most directly and violently interact with a citizen. Your politician can raise your taxes, government bureaucrats can tell you where to build your business, but the police and criminal justice system have to make decisions about taking away life and liberty. Those decisions are complex and raise many questions.

Alain is currently on the lookout for resources and news tips (especially anything related to policing or criminal justice). Reach out to him at alainstephens@inewsource.org, or call him up at (972) 955-1166.

Thanks for reading!   

– Shyla Nott, inewsource

Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife are indicted

Tuesday was a whirlwind news day. Three bombshells dropped. First, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes. Minutes later, a jury found Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, guilty of tax evasion and bank fraud.

Then, an indictment was unsealed in San Diego federal court that accused Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, of using $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including family vacations, school tuition, home decor, dental work and theater tickets. Read the 47-page indictment here.

Hunter’s re-election campaign follows a similar pattern of overspending. Reporter Jill Castellano detailed how his campaign has spent $1.2 million since the start of last year, while only raising $854,000. About half of the money spent went to legal services.

Click here to follow the money in Hunter’s re-election campaign

News21 reports on ‘Hate in America’

We published two reports from the “Hate in America” project produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project by top college journalism students and recent graduates from across the country. News21 is headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

The first story takes a look at hate incidents targeting Latinos and immigrants. News21’s analysis of responses to the National Crime Victimization Survey from 2012 to 2016 showed more than one in five suspected hate crimes in the U.S. victimized Latinos. Read the full story here.

The second piece explores law enforcement’s response to hate crimes. The federal government and 45 states, including California, have laws criminalizing bias-motivated crimes. Arkansas, Indiana, Wyoming, Georgia and South Carolina do not. But how those laws are enforced largely depends on the law enforcement officer who responds to the call. Read the full story here.

The Weekly Ask

In our latest video question series called The Weekly Ask, we asked readers what local government agency they wanted to know more about. We got a lot of emails, and we’re working on getting the answers to as many of them as possible. We’ll have a post about that early next week. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can check out our responses to other Weekly Ask questions here, here and here. Or, watch our latest Weekly Ask video (with bloopers) here.

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About Shyla Nott:

Shyla Nott
Shyla Nott is a social media web producer for inewsource. To contact her with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email shylanott [at] inewsource [dot] org.