What wouldn’t you know, if not for nonprofit news media?

Across America over the last year, reporters in nonprofit newsrooms broke thousands of stories while pursuing journalism in the public interest.

Here are some of the best from the 120 member newsrooms of INN: Fact-based and community-focused. Transparent and non-partisan. Reporting for you.


Reporting by InDepthNH.org in New Hampshire helped free a man who was locked up for seven years even though he wasn't convicted of a crime — with most of those years spent in the state prison's psychiatric unit. Story »

A project of 100Reporters and the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism found family courts across the country still rely on theories dismissed by the psychiatric community to justify placing thousands of children in custody cases with parents accused of sexual and physical abuse. Story »

An investigation into America’s private federal prisons by The Investigative Fund — in partnership with The Nation and Reveal — exposed deadly medical neglect and failed government oversight. At Mother Jones, reporter Shane Bauer spent four months working as a prison guard and 12 more months reporting on the private prison industry. Shortly after these reports, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would stop using private prisons. The Investigative Fund » | Mother Jones »

Oklahoma Watch reporting led the state to suspend use of civil asset forfeiture devices that can seize funds on prepaid debit cards. The devices were intended to help police in roadside seizures of suspected drug-trafficking proceeds, but the story provoked outrage over issues of privacy, due process and alleged profit motives, as money was often taken without suspects being charged with wrongdoing. The governor and state highway patrol suspended use of the card readers. Story »

A Solitary Watch investigation of isolation and abuse in two Virginia state prisons found that state and federal officials overstated the extent of reforms, reporting that prompted the state Department of Corrections to join an effort to further improve the system. Story »

Connecticut Health I-Team discovered the state was coercing parents of children with severe behavioral problems to give up custody in exchange for needed care. Though state officials said it was rare, C-HIT learned that more than 860 children were given up to state custody since 2011 because their families could not access specialized care. The story prompted the formation of a state parents' group working with legislators on reform. Story »


Dave Leaming / Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

Single mother Adena Wilcox and her son, Michael.

Nine months of reporting by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting uncovered a 500 percent rise in single parenthood fueling family poverty in Maine, at a time when poverty and welfare have become polarizing political issues in the state. Story »

Based heavily on reporting by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation, the U.S. Department of Justice arrested 10 executives of Insys Therapeutics, including its former head of sales and its co-founder and chief executive, charging all 10 with RICO violations first exposed by SIRF’s investigation. Story »

An investigation by The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting revealed deplorable living conditions and few housing protections for migrant farmworkers in six states, based on the first-ever nationwide database of migrant worker housing inspections. Story »

A ProPublica investigation, published with the New York Times magazine, revealed how police departments across the country use roadside drug tests to secure guilty pleas and send tens of thousands of people to jail every year – despite widespread evidence that these tests can produce false positives. This reporting led the district attorney’s office in Portland, Ore., to review its drug possession cases, vacate five wrongful convictions and change the way it secures guilty pleas. Story »

In Alabama, thousands of miles of oil and gasoline pipelines crossing the state were mostly out of sight and mind to the public, and even to environmental advocacy groups. But in late 2016, a fatal explosion and a serious leak happened within six weeks of each other. BirminghamWatch dug into records on aging pipelines and uncovered an audit criticizing the government pipeline safety agency for insufficient action. This prompted activists to call for no new pipelines. Story »

Reveal uncovered widespread racial and gender discrimination in the growing temporary worker industry through the use of code words — some explicit, some discreet. After the story aired, the federal government launched a widespread investigation, one lawmaker has pushed for reforms and the company at the center of the story has launched an internal investigation. Story »

The Crime Report looked into the "lifer bubble" — 175,000 prisoners condemned to die in prison due a quirk in drug-sentencing law that prevents them from applying for parole along with their peers. Story »

The Lens in New Orleans obtained and reported on damning internal emails that show the leaders of a five-school charter network ignored a whistleblower's concerns. This reporting throughout 2015-16 led Louisiana to investigate and demand corrections. The top two school leaders have since resigned. Story »

Across the Democratic Republic of the Congo people are protesting President Joseph Kabila's refusal to follow the constitution and step down after his second term. On the day his term officially ended, a Bloomberg News investigation by Pulitzer Center grantee Michael Kavanagh laid out one important reason for hanging on: tens of millions of dollars in profits to Kabila family members from a dizzying array of dozens of mines, banks and other companies. Story »

Florida Bulldog sued under the Freedom of Information Act to win FBI release of public records shedding light on a federal investigation of what appeared to be a support network for the 9/11 hijackers who crashed into the Pentagon. Story »


Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

"Crystal's Cage"

Reporting by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting on the murder trial of 3-year-old Crystal Reyes unraveled a 20-year-old cold case and prompted further investigation into another suspect. Story »

Voice of OC discovered a record-breaking $1 million in campaign spending by Disney during the 2016 election for Anaheim city council, which is responsible for doling out subsidies for Disneyland and related hotels. The story renewed citywide debate about the corporate subsidies. Story »

In These Times disclosed that Native Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than any other group in the country yet their deaths are barely covered by media. Story »

San Francisco Public Press partnered with the TV Archive, a project of the San Francisco-based Internet Archive, to examine the influence of $6.4 million in local political ads broadcast during the 2015 election cycle. Story »

TucsonSentinel.com's investigation into a bizarre fake news site launched by an aide to a county supervisor under a false name led to the staffer’s resignation and a referral to the state Attorney General's Office for a criminal probe. It also prompted the county to look into public record reforms. Story »

Following Baltimore Brew reporting, Maryland election officials are investigating $150,000 in charges for parties, gifts and travel drawn from campaign funds by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake after she announced she was not running for re-election. Story »

inewsource found San Diego has more than $3 billion in contracts with more than 1,000 companies, yet rarely knows the financial interests behind them despite a law requiring those companies to disclose all interested parties. Story »

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism disclosed toxic lead threats from public water systems similar to those in Flint, Mich. Soon after publication, Milwaukee notified 70,000 residents they had lead pipes, and the state created a fund to begin replacing them. Story »

Reporting by Shelterforce started a new conversation about why community development financial institutions are suddenly getting into financing charter schools and what might be behind it. Story »

InvestigateWest uncovered a foster care system in such crisis that state workers were routinely housing children in hotel rooms. The investigation energized public discussions and pressured Washington lawmakers to prioritize reform on the 2017 legislative agenda. Story »

Mississippi Today reporting forced the state legislature to release its contract with a consulting firm hired to review public school funding, a contract they had sought to keep from public view in violation of state law. Story »


Eliot Dudik / The War Horse

Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter

The War Horse reported the untold story of recovery of Kyle Carpenter, a Marine Medal of Honor recipient who survived jumping on a grenade to save a fellow Marine. The story and short documentary about his injury in Afghanistan were published in collaboration with Vanity Fair on Veterans Day. Kyle describes The War Horse's piece as "the story everyone else missed." Story »

Injustice Watch invested weeks of reporting and sent teams into six courthouses to expose the arbitrariness of a bail system that keeps people accused of nonviolent crimes locked up because they can't make bail and frees others who may be dangerous but have access to cash. Story »

Honolulu Civil Beat surfaced the contentious relationship between the administration of Mayor Kirk Caldwell and embattled Honolulu Ethics Commission executive director Chuck Totto. Totto resigned two days after the report, which also led government ethics to become a major issue in the mayoral campaign. Story »

Chalkbeat examined why Indiana's online charter schools have failed to deliver on their promise to help students who have struggled in traditional schools. The Indiana State Board of Education has cracked down on other persistently low-performing schools, while one virtual school has languished in the state’s sluggish decision-making process. The story inspired an editorial in a Fort Wayne newspaper calling for the state to increase monitoring of virtual schools, and legislative discussion of the issue is expected to continue in 2017. Story »

PassBlue uncovered German negotiations ahead of the vote for next secretary-general of the UN Security Council, prompting several national governments to scramble a response and ultimately scuttle the ambitions of a dark-horse candidate. Story »

IowaWatch reporting revealed the extent of a disagreement among teachers in Iowa about how to teach climate change, as well as the mixed opinions of students on the subject. Story »

Over several months The Reporters, Inc. exhaustively covered a wrongful conviction case that put a man in jail for nearly eight years. One week after the story was published, Michael Amick was found not guilty of the crimes he’d been imprisoned for. Story »

FairWarning covered the ban on Medicare officials negotiating prices with drug companies — a prohibition kept in place by the deluge of industry money pouring in to Congress. It seems an anomaly in a democracy that an idea that is immensely popular — lifting this ban in order to save money for seniors and taxpayers — gets absolutely no traction with lawmakers. Story »

A multi-year investigation by WyoFile of Michael J. Ruffatto and Ruffatto’s failed Two-Elk coal-fired plant near Gillette, Wyo., bore fruit in October when federal authorities charged the power magnate with criminal fraud. WyoFile’s reporting showed Ruffatto used stimulus funds to pay himself and his vice president, the son of Wyoming’s senior U.S. Senator, more than $1.2 million in salaries over a two-year period. Ruffatto has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Story »

Bridge Magazine revealed this fall how segregation has become a troubling side effect of the generous school choice policy backed by Betsy DeVos, Michigan school-choice advocate and Donald Trump’s choice for education secretary. As African-Americans and other minorities move into suburban districts, white parents used state-sanctioned school choice to move their children to even less diverse, more white traditional public schools. Story »

The Montana Free Press reported on thousands of pages of newly uncovered documents detailing the National Right to Work Committee’s illegal involvement in Montana primary elections. The documents show how the anti-union group illegally coordinated with conservative legislative candidates and helped the state’s Commissioner of Political Practices in April convince a jury that former State Rep. Art Wittich was guilty of illegal coordination. A judge ordered Wittich to pay a $68,000 fine, and Wittich was defeated by a fellow Republican in the 2016 primary election. Story »

The Eye, the news site from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, together with the New York Times revealed how corporations shape the recommendations of Washington D.C. “think tanks” behind the scenes. In two front-page stories, the reporters made use of thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence to show the coordination between influential policy shops, such as Brookings and Atlantic Council, and their corporate donors. The reports spurred changes in ethics policies in the field and a new understanding among policy makers and the public of how ostensibly impartial analysis is formed. Story »

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting's documentary "Unforgiven" tells the story of Roderick Kemp, who is barred from voting because of a felony conviction. The documentary — distributed in partnership with TIME, The Atlantic, the Miami Herald and other media — tells Kemp's story in his own words and describes how his voting rights were recently revoked because of a 30-year-old cocaine possession charge for which he served a couple of months in jail. Florida leads the nation in disenfranchising ex-felons: 1.7 million, or about 28 percent of the national total, live in the state. Story »

Allegations of fraud have long clouded a ski resort in northern Vermont, including allegations that developers misused $200 million in immigrant investor funds raised through wealthy immigrants seeking special U.S. visas. VTDigger began reporting on these allegations two years before the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against the developers last April in what is now the largest EB-5 immigrant investor fraud case in the nation’s history. Story »

Reporting by The Philadelphia Public School Notebook led the Philadelphia school district to speed up its testing of school drinking water for lead and to re-evaluate its testing practices. Story »

CALmatters — in partnership with the Los Angeles Times and Capital Public Radio — found that state payments to reduce a $241 billion unfunded pension liability will double during Gov. Jerry Brown’s tenure, despite Brown’s claim that he passed the “biggest rollback to public pension benefits in the history of California.” The day the story was published, the governor said, “we’re not finished with pension reform. We still got to do much more there.” Story »

After the North Carolina State Epidemiologist resigned to protest political criticism of state work exposing danger from tainted well water near coal ash ponds, NC Health News won an exclusive interview with the usually media-shy official. The resulting report revealed that a loss of confidence in the leadership and a hyper-partisan atmosphere were undermining work of the state's Division of Public Health. Story »

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange came under intense scrutiny by legislators after its disastrous start implementing the Affordable Care Act two-and-a-half years ago, and MarylandReporter.com followed it closely. Now that the exchange and its technology seems to be working, legislators seem less anxious to probe its working and finances. That’s the conclusion from watching hearings in Annapolis over the exchange’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget testimony. MarylandReporter.com's story helped to revive interest in the tens of millions of dollars that had been wasted. Story »

MinnPost closely followed a series of negotiations between the owners of a new Major League Soccer franchise and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, shining a spotlight on the debate over how much local governments should offer sports teams in pursuit of economic development, as well as the longstanding rivalry between the neighboring cities. Story »

The Marshall Project’s investigation into the deadly business of prisoner transport, in which prisoners who are shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles are loaded onto passenger vans for journeys that might last weeks, found that 16 people had died since 2000 and 14 were allegedly sexually assaulted. Vans have crashed more than 50 times, and 60 people have escaped from them. In a hearing less than a week after the story was published, members of the House Judiciary Committee pressed Attorney General Loretta Lynch about prisoner transport. Lynch promised to look into these lapses of federal oversight. Story »


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