Mark J. Rochester speaks at an inewsource event in San Diego, Nov. 22, 2021. Photo courtesy of Bob Ross.

Journalists aren’t supposed to take “victory laps” – trotting along in conspicuous celebration of their achievements – but I wanted to share with our supporters the tremendous sense of pride I have in the inewsource staff due to its recent work. I also have to take a moment to recognize that all of this work is made possible by readers like you who support inewsource.

In less than two months, inewsource has published three collaborative investigations with national news organizations that have exposed significant public policy issues that have roots in San Diego but also national resonance and impact. These projects were worthy of our staff time and resources even without larger publishing partnerships, but pursuing these stories with newsrooms that greatly expanded distribution of our journalism was a terrific win-win for everyone involved.

These collaborative journalism efforts didn’t just enable terrific journalism to reach much larger audiences. The agreements themselves were an affirmation of the value and importance of carefully researched, methodically reported and meticulously vetted watchdog journalism. This kind of reporting isn’t easy to do and requires an investment of time and resources – commitments these partner newsrooms acknowledged and appreciated.

ICYMI:  These collaborative efforts began with inewsource reporter Jennifer Bowman working with a team from the Center for Public Integrity that found students with disabilities, Black children and on some campuses, Native American and Latino children, have been disproportionately impacted by policing in schools. Black children and students with disabilities were referred to law enforcement at nearly twice their share of the overall student population, the reporting showed.

Joshua Zavala, now 16, is shown at his home in Mira Mesa, Sept. 7, 2021. When he was 13 Joshua was reported to police by Lakeside Middle School.

A few days after publication, Bowman moderated a national panel of journalists and education advocates in a discussion of the project and its implications for school age children nationwide.

On Nov. 1, inewsource partnered with USA TODAY to chronicle how veterans across the country are unable to access needed medical care because the Veterans Administration is systematically refusing requests of veterans to get treatment outside of VA facilities, even when their doctors believe it is in their patients’ best interests. The story appeared online and on the front page of USA TODAY.

Jill Castellano’s VA investigation appears on the cover of USA TODAY‘s Nov. 5 weekend edition.

Reaction to the story was immediate. Members of Congress described inewsource’s investigation into the VA health care system as “troubling,” “alarming” and “unacceptable,” emphasizing that the issues raised by the reporting merit further congressional scrutiny.

“I am increasingly alarmed by the concerns I hear from veterans and from stories like this one,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-IL, ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “They all point to one thing — VA not following the law and holding veterans hostage to a health care system that is not serving them.”

In another effort to engage with the community regarding our journalism, reporter Jill Castellano participated in a panel discussion hosted by Concerned Veterans for America and carried on Facebook Live.

A few weeks later, we published a story we had worked on for months in collaboration with National Public Radio and KPBS on the one-time prevalence of racially restrictive covenants in San Diego County and around the country. Exhaustive research by reporter Roxana Popescu found that from Imperial Beach to Campo to Oceanside, racist housing covenants shaped San Diego for decades, limiting housing opportunities for an untold thousands of area residents.

Roxana Popescu’s byline appeared in NPR’s online version of the covenant reporting project.

Roxana’s reporter byline appeared with the NPR story online and was credited during the radio broadcast on Morning Edition.

The additional exposure that comes with these types of national partnerships is a welcomed benefit, but our strategic goal is getting our investigative storytelling in front of the largest possible audiences in order to increase the possibilities of concrete change coming as a result of the reporting. 

Even with a publishing partner like USA TODAY, we needed help from readers to bring you the story of John Seymour, a veteran who’s waited two years for a VA treatment plan. This kind of painstakingly gathered reporting is only possible with support from the local community. Please consider donating during our year-end fundraising campaign so that we can continue this kind of watchdog reporting. All donations made before the end of the year will be doubled by our matching campaigns. 

– Mark J. Rochester

Type of Content

Behind The Story: Clarifies for the public how a story was reported.

Mark J. Rochester is a former inewsource managing editor. Previously, he was editor in chief of Type Investigations, a national investigative newsroom headquartered in Manhattan. He has held senior management positions overseeing investigative journalism from New York to California, having been senior...