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July 9, 2009, 7:41 a.m.

Nonprofits mull “mobile strike force” of journalists

There were plenty of proposals for collaboration at the summit of nonprofit news organizations that I wrote about on Monday, but one idea is worthy of Rambo: a “mobile strike force” of investigative journalists, ready to deploy at any moment, anywhere in the country, to dig into scandal, cover natural disasters, or otherwise power up a local news outlet.

It’s still just an intriguing concept but could become part of the nascent Nonprofit Investigative News Network formed at the meeting in Pocantico, N.Y.

“Frankly, if there’s a story down here in Houston, Texas that’s beyond my grasp,” said Trent Seibert of Texas Watchdog, “a pool of experts that might be able to descend on Houston to take on a big issue would be helpful.”

The idea of deploying a group of investigative journalists isn’t without precedent. When Arizona reporter Don Bolles was killed by a car bomb in 1976, nearly 40 journalists, sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, converged on Arizona to investigate his death and continue his reporting on organized crime. The Arizona Project was followed by the Chauncey Bailey Project in 2007 to continue the work of a murdered Oakland Post editor.

Still, as Chuck Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, told me: “The idea of swarm coverage using investigative reporters is a novel concept. We think of most investigative reporting as sort of project oriented, many months, painstaking culling of information.” Of the “mobile strike force” idea, Lewis said, “I think there would be great excitement, not only from the member organizations. I think the public would appreciate it deeply and I think there would be funding that would materialize.”

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POSTED     July 9, 2009, 7:41 a.m.
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