The Center for Public Integrity is partnering with Flint Beat to strengthen reporting on the Michigan community as it works through the COVID-19 pandemic and the Flint water crisis.
Public Integrity will train Flint Beat’s staff on how to identify, analyze and utilize data and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for their reporting.
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Flint Beat founder, publisher and reporter Jiquanda Johnson said the additional reporting support would enable her newsroom to dig deeper into the racial inequities laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Blacks make up 13 percent of Michigan’s population but account for 40 percent of coronavirus deaths. And you rarely or never hear about the impact the virus is having on the Latino community,” Johnson told Public Integrity.
The collaboration will also help Flint Beat cover other crucial public health issues, such as gun violence and the ongoing fallout from the community’s exposure to lead-tainted water.
“This all supports our mission to be watchdogs in the community, and it will help equip our team with the skill and know-how to properly search data and how to use the power of the FOIA to engage and empower audiences,” said Johnson.
“The partnership with Flint Beat signals a new direction for our work that emphasizes local newsrooms that serve underrepresented communities. It is not enough to write about issues from afar,” says Public Integrity CEO Susan Smith Richardson. “We need to work with newsrooms on the frontlines to inform our reporting and storytelling and to get our stories to people who are directly affected by the issues we cover. The relationship with Flint Beat allows us to do both, while helping the Beat dig deeper into local issues by sharing our data expertise and long experience with the Freedom of Information Act.”
Public Integrity is a national leader among news outlets in its use of FOIA litigation. It has been ranked among the nation’s media leaders in filing FOIA lawsuits to obtain records, along with news organizations such as Buzzfeed and the Associated Press.
The Flint Beat partnership is possible thanks to a $100,000 grant from Facebook’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program. Overall, the project has awarded $16 million to 200 newsrooms. More than 2,000 newsrooms applied.
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