BOSTON — Boston University’s New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) is launching a new initiative to create a national model for sustainable nonprofit investigative journalism, thanks to a two-year, $400,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
NECIR is the nation’s first university-based, multimedia investigative reporting collaborative focused on local and regional issues. With future funding for serious, in-depth investigative reporting uncertain nationwide, NECIR will be testing the ability of a university-based investigative reporting collaborative to sustain itself long term by generating funds through a series of innovative multimedia journalism projects. Those include student workshops, paid content delivery, newsroom training and client research services.
“Investigative reporting is one of democracy's most important tools for providing citizens with the information they need to hold the powerful accountable and make informed decisions,” said NECIR Director Joe Bergantino. “Our goal is to create a national model for ensuring the long-term survival of this important type of journalism.”
NECIR is an example of a new journalism model that has been replicated by others participating in the growing nonprofit investigative reporting movement. “Investigative journalism is essential to build, sustain and strengthen democracy and for these reasons it is vital that new sustainable models be developed,” said Jose Zamora, journalism program associate at Knight Foundation. “NECIR will develop a sustainable university-based investigative reporting program by experimenting with revenue streams, including crowd-funding.”
Launched in January, 2009 in BU’s College of Communication, NECIR produces in-depth investigative news reports with its major media outlets. They currently include the Boston Globe, the region’s most widely circulated newspaper; Boston.com, one of the most widely read newspaper Web sites in the nation; The Christian Science Monitor, The (Lawrence, MA) Eagle-Tribune,The (Worcester, MA) Telegram and Gazette; New England Cable News (NECN), the largest, most honored regional cable television station in the country; WBUR-FM, one of the country’s preeminent public radio stations; El Planeta, one of the largest circulation Hispanic newspapers in Massachusetts; and New England Ethnic News, a Web-based news service for ethnic media. In addition to in-depth, investigative reports, NECIR also provides its partners with resources and assistance to help generate more investigative reporting in their newsrooms.
BU journalism students, working as reporter-trainees, help research stories, guided by a faculty of veteran journalists, including center directors and award-winning investigative reporters Joe Bergantino (ex-WBZ-TV and ABC News) and Maggie Mulvihill (ex-Boston Herald, WBZ-TV); Mitch Zuckoff and Dick Lehr (ex-Boston Globe); Lou Ureneck (ex-Philadelphia Inquirer deputy managing editor); and College of Communication Dean Tom Fiedler (ex-Miami Herald executive editor and Pulitzer Prize winner). A diverse group of Boston public high school students work as interns at NECIR.
In the past year, NECIR-BU’s multimedia stories have included: the Massachusetts Banking Division’s weak record for disciplining errant mortgage brokers and lenders; the criminal fraud convictions, as well as spotty environmental and workplace safety records, of Massachusetts contractors receiving federal stimulus funds; the millions spent on expensive homes for Salvation Army leaders in Massachusetts; and the failure of some New England colleges to discipline perpetrators of campus sexual assaults.
“With the support of the Knight Foundation, we will continue to report on important topics like these and hope to develop a sustainable – and replicable – business model that will support the highest quality investigative reporting in a university setting," said Tom Fiedler, dean of BU’s College of Communication.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit center also serves as a laboratory for experimenting with how best to deliver long-form investigative content to online audiences. Its investigative reports are made available in forms suitable for newspapers, broadcast outlets, and online news sites and posted on the center’s interactive Web site, www.necir-bu.org.
NECIR is funded by its partners as well as private contributions and grants from foundations, including Knight Foundation, which promotes journalism excellence worldwide.
About Boston University
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school's research and teaching mission.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
Joe Bergantino or Maggie Mulvihill, 617-353-9097
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.