Watchdog

New Web page another tool for watchdog journalism

It’s known by many names: watchdog journalism, investigative journalism, accountability journalism.

It’s the kind of journalism that digs under rocks, that tells you something you don’t already know, that looks beyond press releases and news conferences and scripted news events to find out how public money is being spent, or how public officials are behaving.

It’s the kind of journalism that the Herald-Leader has long been known for in Kentucky.

By the calls and comments I get on an almost-daily basis, many of you have noticed that, over the last year or so, the Herald-Leader has redoubled its attention to this kind of journalism.

You’ve read and commented on stories that delved into the state’s $880 million courthouse building program, and on a series of investigations into spending at public and quasi-public institutions (Blue Grass Airport, Lexington Public Library, the Kentucky League of Cities, the Kentucky Association of Counties).

These stories have had many things in common: They’ve examined areas of spending that normally don’t elicit public scrutiny. They’ve all led to changes, either in personnel, spending habits or policies.

And they have all benefited from feedback and tips from you, the readers of the Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com.

Now we’re adding a new tool in our efforts to hold government, institutions and those in power accountable. It’s a tool that we hope will make it even easier for you to follow our watchdog reporting efforts, and to participate in them as well.

This weekend, the Herald-Leader launches a new “Watchdog” page on the Web. You can find it at www.kentucky.com/watchdog.

This page is an extension of our recent watchdog reporting efforts – the kind of investigative, dig-below-the-surface journalism that you won’t get from other local media or the blogosphere.

On the watchdog page, you can easily track the Herald-Leader’s top investigative reports, as well as follow-up stories that flow out of them.

A “data sleuth” section connects you to many searchable databases of public records, from government salaries to expense reports, nursing home violations to lawsuits. We invite you to look through these records, and to let us know if you find anything interesting, or worth further checking.

A “citizen watchdog” feature connects you to resources and information on ways to do your own investigating — tips for filing public records requests, contact information for public officials, links for other sources of public information.

You can read great examples of watchdog reporting from other journalists around the country.

And you can meet and contact the Herald-Leader’s accountability reporters, a team that we recently expanded to ensure we continue to focus on watchdog stories that really delve deep.

Finally, the page gives you a direct way to send your valuable tips, suggestions and information to the Herald-Leader’s team of watchdogs. You can do this through an email link on the page. You can also follow the watchdog page on Twitter (@kywatchdog) and Facebook (KentuckyWatchdog).

Please take a look, and let us know what you think. Most importantly, keep those tips coming.

- Peter Baniak (pbaniak@herald-leader.com)

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