We’re picky with our partnerships

karen.peterson@thenewstribune.comOctober 7, 2012 

Tough economic times have forced people in all lines of business to find new ways to get their jobs done with fewer resources. Our business is no different.

News partnerships – unheard of just a few years back – have proven fruitful as new sources of good local content. We now trade stories routinely with The Olympian and The Seattle Times. We share story tips and sources with KIRO-TV.

Last month marked our first partnership with InvestigateWest, an investigative journalism nonprofit started by reporters from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer after it stopped printing in 2009. News Tribune reporter Lewis Kamb, who came to us from the P-I, partnered with InvestigateWest reporter Carol Smith on our stories about the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, which processes illegal immigrants.

The TNT has been slow to partner with these nonprofits. Dozens of them have sprung up across the country, in many cases staffed by newly out-of-work reporters. Some of their work has been outstanding; ProPublica, based in New York City, won Pulitzer Prizes in 2010 and 2011.

Our hesitancy has been for two reasons. First, we want to be sure our stories are not the product of a person or foundation pushing a point of view. And second, we must trust that the reporting is thorough, accurate and fair.

Some journalism nonprofits make money by selling advertising on their websites. Some sell their stories to newspapers and television stations. Many solicit donations from people generally supportive of investigative journalism. Many depend on large foundation grants to stay afloat.

Some of the foundation funding, while well-meaning, comes with strings attached requiring coverage of specific issues. That has concerned us.

InvestigateWest accepts money from a handful of foundations that support investigative journalism in general. We were OK with that. It also accepts money from foundations focused on homelessness and environmental issues. Smith’s work on our stories was not funded by those sources.

As an editor, it’s also difficult to publish an investigative story we didn’t oversee. On this most complicated and important journalism, we’re admittedly control freaks.

For the immigration series, Smith and Kamb reported the stories side-by-side under the supervision of TNT editors. We shared the final product, which ran in our paper and on both websites.

Additionally, we’d seen the work of Smith and other InvestigateWest reporters when they were at the P-I. Their board of directors includes big names in Washington and national journalism circles. We’ve known them for years, and we trust their journalism ethics.

In this case, the partnership satisfied our independence and quality standards, and Smith’s reporting added depth and breadth to our story. We’ll consider future partnerships one project at a time.

NEW HUSKIES WRITER

You may have noticed a new byline in the paper. Todd Dybas has joined our sports staff as the University of Washington Huskies beat writer.

Dybas has covered sports in and around Seattle since 2005, when he joined the staff of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Seattlepi.com. For the past two years, he’s made a business of covering college and professional sports for Sports Illustrated, The Associated Press and major daily newspapers whose sports teams were playing in Seattle.

If you bleed purple and gold, check out Dybas’ Huskies Insider blog at thenewstribune.com where he posts several updates a day, including photos and videos.

In other TNT roster moves, Todd Milles will coordinate high school sports coverage, and Ryan Divish becomes our Seattle Mariners beat writer next season after Larry LaRue moves to the news side of our operation.

AWARD FOR MILITARY COVERAGE

Our own Adam Ashton was named a winner in the Military Reporters & Editors national journalism contest. Ashton won in the small market category for domestic coverage for his story “The Lost Platoon,” that appeared last year in the TNT.

The story was based on an Army investigation into the so-called Stryker “kill team” from Joint Base Lewis-McChord convicted in the deaths of Afghan civilians.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434 karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com @TNTkpeterson

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