News Releases

Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism receives major grants worth more than $120,000

$100,000 Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation grant leads the way: media partners, community foundation also show support three grants

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism received word that it has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. This is the second grant from foundation, which also awarded the Center and its news operation, IowaWatch, $100,000 in August 2011.

The new funds will be used for operating expenses while the Center develops sustainable revenue sources. The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is a non-profit, non-partisan news organization that produces investigative and public affairs journalism in collaboration with other Iowa newsrooms; and works one-on-one with college students who want to produce this kind of journalism.

“Finding a way to fund IowaWatch on a consistent basis is necessary for this kind of non-profit journalism to succeed,” Lyle Muller, the Center’s Executive Director-Editor, said. “The foundation’s grant is our largest source of funding this year, but we want to shift our financing so that any future help we’d be fortunate to receive from foundations supplements financial support we hope to get from within Iowa.

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation grant is one of six the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism has received in recent months. The others:

SourceMedia Group of Iowa, which includes The Gazette newspaper and KCRG-TV9, has given $10,000 to help support a digital analysis/reporter initiative at IowaWatch.

Woodward Communications, which includes the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, has given $5,000 to help support the digital analysis/reporter initiative.

The Burlington Hawk Eye has pledged $5,000 to the digital analysis/reporter initiative. That initiative also is funded with a $20,000 Nicholas B. Ottaway grant that was announced in August 2012. “Support from these forward-thinking Iowa media companies is huge because it shows that they are serious about providing good investigative and public affairs journalism,” Muller said.

The Community Foundation of Johnson County awarded a $600 grant in November for operational support art the Center and its news effort called IowaWatch. “That grant, in particular, is appreciated because it was included one among so many worthy local Johnson County projects, and because it acknowledges the benefits we provide for the local community,” Muller said.

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism awarded IowaWatch and reporters Sujin Kim and Sarah Hadley a $1,035 grant to help them investigate the gap between recycling and dumping garbage into Iowa landfills. The grant covered by paying for expenses associated with travel, and obtaining documents and producing the story.

-- January 30, 2013

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IowaWatch receives Ottaway Foundation grant

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs has received a $20,000 grant from the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation to support its statewide program for investigative and explanatory reporting by college students. The grant will be used for staffing expenses.

“The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation is pleased to become partners with your organization,” a letter to the Center from Bonnie Burgoyne, the Foundation’s executive director, stated. The Foundation, of Campbell Hall, N.Y., contributes to journalism programs or projects that improve the quality of journalism or defend freedom of the press.

“This grant is huge for us, and greatly appreciated. It is strong financial support for our goal of hiring experienced reporters to work as mentors for students while also producing their own journalism. But also important, it shows confidence from a national foundation that what we are trying to do at the Center is on the right track,” Lyle Muller, executive director of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, said.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is an independent non-profit news agency that runs an online news site, iowawatch.org and collaborates with Iowa news organizations to produce explanatory and investigative work. Its co-founder, Stephen Berry, University of Iowa associate professor of journalism and mass communication, is a member of the Center’s Board of Directors.  -- Aug. 24, 2012

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Jordan elected IowaWatch board president

Erin Jordan, an investigative reporter for The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), has been selected as the new Board of Directors president for the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. Jordan is succeeding David Schwartz, who recently stepped down in order to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  Schwartz will remain on the board.

At The Gazette, Jordan won the Iowa Newspaper Foundation’s Harrison “Skip” Weber Investigative Reporting Award in 2012.  Earlier in her career she served as the Iowa City Bureau reporter for the Des Moines Register.  In 2009, Jordan taught at the Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop held by the University of Iowa and at the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio in Iowa City in 2006, 2007 and 2009.  She is a graduate of Iowa State University.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is an independent non-profit news agency that runs an online news site, iowawatch.org and collaborates with Iowa news organizations to produce explanatory and investigative work. Its co-founder, Stephen Berry, University of Iowa associate professor of journalism and mass communication, is a member of the Center’s Board of Directors.  -- Aug. 22, 2012

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Major award for Ungs-Sogaard

IowaWatch Board Member Mary Ungs-Sogaard won the Iowa Newspaper Association’s coveted Master Editor-Publisher Award last week at its annual convention in Des Moines.

The award is given to the person who has worked hard, thought soundly, influenced unselfishly and lived honorably. Ungs-Sogaard is the publisher of Dyersville Commercial and Cascade Pioneer and is a founding member of the board of directors of The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch.org. She also is the past president of the Association.

The Dyersville Commercial also won two awards: first place for the master columnist award and 3rd place for best editorial pages in the class 3 category for papers over 2,235 circulation. The Cascade Pioneer took first for best personality feature story and second for business coverage and for government and politics coverage in the class 2 category for papers with circulations between 1,400-2,234.

IowaWatch Interim Executive Director-Editor Stephen J. Berry met with dozens of student journalists and representatives of newspapers from all over Iowa during the INA convention in Des Moines Feb. 2-3. Here he tells Jennifer Moe of Northwood, Iowa, about IowaWatch’s mission. Photo Credit: Paul Jensen of the University of Iowa.

INA held the annual two-day convention and trade show Feb. 2-3 at the downtown Marriott Hotel.

During the convention, Interim Executive Director-Editor Stephen J. Berry, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, participated on a panel entitled “Achieving Excellence: A Panel of Pulitzer Prize Winners” along with reporter Christine Willmsen of the Seattle Times and photographer Mary Chind of the Des Moines Register. -- Feb. 6,  2012


Student journalists to gain real-world experience in caucus coverage course

The course description for Caucus Campaign Coverage reads, "Welcome to the Big Leagues."

It's an accurate portrayal, given the real-world experience reporters-in-training at the University of Iowa will gain this semester. For a brief window of time, the state becomes the center of the political universe. And the two dozen student journalists enrolled in the four-credit-hour workshop will be part of a national press corps covering the presidential hopefuls who use Iowa as a testing ground.

The class will maintain a blog and their best in-depth work will appear on IowaWatch.org, the website of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that publishes investigative and explanatory reports.

"The Iowa Caucuses, on Feb. 6, 2012, will be the first major event in a presidential campaign that will consume the media and the nation over the next year," said Stephen Berry, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter who is teaching the course with fellow UI journalism professor Jane Singer, an expert in new media. "Our students will report, write and edit hard news and features, for print and digital media."

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is offering the workshop to graduate and advanced undergraduate students. A few younger students who already have newsroom experience also made special requests to enroll, knowing the opportunity only comes around every four years.

Caitlin Fry, a UI junior majoring in journalism and history, took the course to enhance her understanding of the political process. She believes the hands-on experience of covering the Iowa Caucuses will serve her well as she pursues an internship in Washington, D.C. next year and a career in public service or advocacy.

"I hope to become more informed about the campaigning, election and caucus process," said Fry, a native of Naperville, Ill. "My goal is to be more active in issues facing our country. I believe this real-world experience will build my confidence to go out and find the stories that need to be told."

One focus of the course will be accuracy – and not just getting quotes right.

"We don't want students to just regurgitate speeches. Anyone with a recorder can do that," Berry said. "We'll have fact-checking assignments to take a deeper look at statements made by candidates."

Students will also try their hand at polling, teaming up with the Hawkeye Poll, a series of state and national surveys conducted by UI graduate students and faculty in political science. Prior to the 2008 caucuses, the poll was cited by news outlets such as the Associated Press, the Today show, CNN, TIME, Politico, The New York Times, Newsweek, the Washington Post, The L.A. Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, MSNBC and U.S.News & World Report.

"Polls are a critically important tool for reporting, and learning what's required to conduct a poll is excellent experience as well," Singer said. "We especially like the idea of student journalists learning to ask questions in the disinterested, neutral style that's required for polling."

The students will produce print and video packages, live blog and Tweet, and analyze news coverage of the campaigns. They'll learn the mechanics of the Iowa Caucuses, including partisan differences, with the help of the book "Why Iowa?" coauthored by UI political scientist Caroline Tolbert.

IowaWatch.org hits one-year mark, secures first major grant

The class will provide the core of caucus coverage for IowaWatch.org. Going into its second year, the site has published more than 60 in-depth articles, most of which were produced by UI students.

Berry co-founded IowaWatch to produce quality investigative and explanatory journalism for Iowans, and to train reporters and provide a venue for their long-form projects. In its first year, IowaWatch exposed lax standards on contaminated fish advisories and organic farm inspections, explored end-of-life laws that limit private choices, and alerted consumers to dangerous toys. Reporters examined Iowa's "dysfunctional and splintered mental-health system," resulting in proposed legislation that would put the state, rather than individual counties, in charge. Other projects examined similarities between same-sex and traditional families and pointed out structural deficiencies in the state's bridges.

Now the center is collaborating with the D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity to critically assess virtually all branches of state government in coming months. IowaWatch is joining forces with The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette to carry out the Iowa portion of the 50-state project.

The work has not gone unnoticed. This summer, IowaWatch received a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma City. Berry, interim executive director/editor of IowaWatch, said the grant provides funding for a full-time leader who will establish a long-term financial strategy involving a mix of self-sustaining revenues, donations and grants.

IowaWatch operates under a "Like it? Steal it." mantra. That means state and national media outlets may choose to pick up the students' work, so long as they credit the center and its contributors. Berry and Singer said the budding journalists in the caucus coverage class can't beat that kind of exposure.

"This isn't a typical class," Singer said. "They will participate in a national political event, rub shoulders with the national press corps at rallies and other campaign events, learn from and analyze the coverage, and produce content for a worldwide audience. It's incredible hands-on experience."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070, nicole-riehl@uiowa.edu


IowaWatch joins SAP project with the Center for Public Intergrity and Global Integrity

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch and SourceMedia (Cedar Rapids Gazette), has joined in a 50-state reporting project with two national non-profit journalism organizations.

The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity of Washington, D.C., invited IowaWatch into the reporting project earlier this summer. The Johnson County non-profit and the Gazette then teamed upto carry out the Iowa portion of the assignment.

Reporters from the two news organizations will take on the task of critically assessing virtually all branches of state government over the next several months.

The collaboration between the Gazette and IowaWatch is another example of a growing trend toward collaborative journalism throughout the country. This is the first time the two Iowa news organizations have partnered in a national collaboration.

“This is a very complex and ambition collaboration that involves reporters from for-profit and non-profit news organizations along with freelance journalists,” said Stephen J. Berry, interim executive director-editor of IowaWatch and a journalism professor at the University of Iowa. “With so many people and so many moving parts, the coordination has required a herculean effort on the part of Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.

“I am always reluctant to describe anything as unprecedented,” Berry said, “but in my four decades in journalism, I cannot recall any other national reporting project as big and complicated as this one. Our young organization, with its cadre of student journalists, is certainly fortunate to have the experience and reporting expertise that Gazette reporters bring to the effort. Their value is immeasurable.”

This will be IowaWatch’s sixth reporting collaboration; it’s third with the Center for Public Integrity and second with SourceMedia/Gazette.

“For IowaWatch and its staff of University of Iowa journalism students, this is a rare and valuable journalistic experience and a thrilling opportunity,” Berry said. “Not only are they engaging in very complex reporting efforts, they are getting first-hand experience in learning what is required to put together a national collaborative project.”

The project will evaluate the overall efficacy of anti-corruption and government transparency procedures at the state level, including political financing, civil service management and state budget processes.

According to a release, contributing members will also generate online information authorizing constituents to demand greater responsibility from their respective state officials.

Also collaborating on the project are reporters from the 49 other states, Public Radio International and Global Integrity by way of a $1.5 million grant.

Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, will donate up to $1 million and the Rita Allen Foundation will provide $500,000 in matching funds.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch, is an independent, nonpartisan news service incorporated as a non-profit in Iowa in February 2010.

Media Contact: Ryan Roccaforte, (563) 209-4684, ryan-roccaforte@uiowa.edu


IowaWatch Receives Ethics and Excellence Grant

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation has awarded $100,000 grant to The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism for the support of IowaWatch,org, a non-partisan, non-profit explanatory and investigative journalism website.

IowaWatch received official notice of the grant Thursday.

“This grant is an important development for the people in Iowa who crave solid explanatory and investigative journalism,” said Interim Executive Director-Editor Stephen J. Berry. “I and our board are deeply grateful to Foundation’s board and advisory committee for showing their trust in us in such a generous manner.”

The Iowa Center was founded in February 2010 and began publishing four months later. Since then, it has relied almost totally on individual donations, volunteers and student journalists from the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“We are indebted to a dedicated band of student journalists who have been working tirelessly and for free since May 2010 to produce the kind of good journalism that would serve the public and establish IowaWatch as a journalistic force,” Berry said. “Thanks to them, generous funders like the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation could just look at our website and see hard evidence that they are investing in more than just a good idea.”

He said IowaWatch plans to use the grant to hire a highly accomplished, well-respected professional to lead IowaWatch and to help us establish a long-range financial strategy that will include a mix of self-sustaining revenues, individual donations and grants.

IowaWatch was founded as a non-profit, non-partisan news organization in February2010 and began publishing four months later. Its mission is to train student journalists and produce explanatory and investigative multimedia projects independently or in collaboration with other news organizations. It distributes almost all of its stories free to news organizations statewide.

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation’s mission is to “invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information,” according to its website.

It focuses much of its grants “on innovative and entrepreneurial organizations who we believe may be the future models for gathering news and disseminating information to the public,”sBob Ross, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation, said in a statement in earlier this year. The foundation was established by the late Edith Kinney Gaylord, a pioneering newspaper reporter and the daughter of the publisher of The Oklahoman and the Oklahoma City Times. She worked at her father’s paper and the Associated Press and created the foundation in 1982.


IowaWatch Added to CJR News Database

Columbia Journalism Review today announced that The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch has become the newest member of its online News Frontier Database.

In making the announcement, CJR wrote a 1,000-word online profile story about IowaWatch entitled “Investigative Reporting for the Hawkeye State.”

This is the second professional journal that IowaWatch has appeared in, the first being the American Journalism Review.

“I think being included in the database is extremely important for IowaWatch, because it establishes our presence on the national landscape,” Stephen J. Berry, IowaWatch’s interim executive-editor, said.

The database provides documentation of original reporting and stories from the “digital news terrain” across the country.

According to its website, each digital news agency is given a profile detailing business operations, anecdotes, stories from the past, future plans, commentary and critique and the “war” stories of the agency’s interviewee, along with various other statistics.

“It is a tremendous service to journalism, because it provides such a valuable source of information to journalists and to people who study journalism and the media,” Berry said. “Hat’s off to CJR.”

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch is an independent, nonpartisan news service incorporated in Iowa in February 2010 and recognized by the as a non-profit organization under IRS Code 501 (c)(3).

Media Contact: Ryan Roccaforte, (563) 209-4684, ryan-roccaforte@uiowa.edu