Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The New Investigators

At a story meeting for California Watch, the nonprofit investigative news startup, employees sit around a conference table as Robert Salladay, the organization’s senior editor, begins to describe the findings of a six-month investigation by one of his state capital reporters. “It gives me chills,” Salladay tells the group. “Each paragraph could be its own story.” Robert Rosenthal, the founder of California Watch, peers over his glasses at an open laptop, then nods in agreement. “The reporting is so amazing,” he says.

This is a sweet moment in any investigation, a charmed time that used to feel familiar in newsrooms, back when editors could afford to detach reporters for a few months of digging. Corey G. Johnson had used his shovel well. The California Watch reporter amassed twenty boxes of documents—so many that one government agency he’s probing set up a private office for him to go through the material. Now Johnson was laying it all out for his editors, certain he had uncovered something important.

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