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Janelle O’Dea is joining the Center for Public Integrity in a newly created data reporter position focused on local news collaborations and capacity-building. 

Strengthening the data capabilities of local news organizations, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities is a core tenet to Public Integrity’s mission to confront inequality in the U.S.

She joins Public Integrity from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a data reporter for five years. There, she combined the subject-matter expertise of her fellow reporters with data analysis and programming to dig deeper into stories and subjects. In 2018, she was part of the team for “Tipping Point,” a series about the effects of too many vacant, dilapidated homes in St. Louis — particularly in the city’s underserved and neglected communities, where vacant housing is heavily concentrated.

Janelle O’Dea (Sid Hastings)

More recently she filed more than 200 open records requests to government agencies in Missouri and Illinois to compile a database of public salaries from across metro St. Louis. Not only did the project provide transparency into government spending, it allowed workers to make sure they were being paid fairly. 

Over the past two years, Public Integrity has partnered with hundreds of local news organizations on topics such as climate change’s impact on marginalized communities, the disproportionate impact that police presence in schools has on students of color and children with disabilities, polling place closures and lack of government transparency about the spread of COVID-19.

O’Dea will be working on Public Integrity’s initiative to build investigative reporting capacity at local news organizations, particularly those serving Latino, Black, Asian,Indigenous and other underrepresented communities.

“I’m thrilled to join the Public Integrity team, and use my data skills to support the vital work done by local news outlets,” O’Dea said. “After spending nearly a decade in the newspaper industry, at papers of different sizes, I know intimately the struggles that staff and editors face each and every day.”

O’Dea is from Mahomet, Illinois, a small town outside Champaign-Urbana. Prior to moving to St. Louis, where she currently lives, she worked in Florida and Colorado covering business and government. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a major in journalism and a minor in informatics.

“Our work to help local newsrooms build capacity is key to informing communities and holding officials accountable,” said Public Integrity senior editor, Jennifer LaFleur. “I’m thrilled that O’Dea will be leading our efforts to facilitate data journalism in those newsrooms.”

In addition to the new data journalist focused on local collaborations, Public Integrity is hiring a data journalist to support a new collaborative of local news organizations in California’s under-served Central Valley.

Public Integrity, which has twice won the Pulitzer Prize and been recognized with numerous other top honors in journalism, is one of the oldest nonprofit news organizations in the country. It is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in the United States.

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