The Public Press Blog

Not all newspapers are dinosaurs!

 As the year comes to an end, we would like to take you behind the scenes of the San Francisco Public Press and introduce you to the editors, reporters, photographers and others working together to dig up unheralded local stories in the public interest.

We can't do this work without your support. Please donate to the Public Press during our end-of-year fundraising drive.



Michael Stoll, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

Why did you start the Public Press?

The inspiration came from the deterioration in local news media that a lot of colleagues and I saw in the late 2000s, due to corporate consolidation and the loss of advertising revenue to the internet. No one had thought to combine the newspaper subscription model and the public broadcasting "pledge" model, so we officially began our endeavor in March of 2009 with a grant from the San Francisco Foundation. We launched the print edition just over a year after that.

What makes the coverage in the Public Press different?

We’ve done stories about local development and the problems of overspending on capital projects resulting from political interference — like the Bay Bridge report from 2009 and the Treasure Island package from 2010.

The just-published Healthy San Francisco reporting project is a great example of how a small independent news organization can take a deeper look at a very big local program than any of the mainstream news media have done before. 

What is the benefit of your ad-free model for news?

We can do journalism more independently. In our first edition, we investigated dubious sales practices in the gem department of Macy's, something that is unlikely to receive a lot of attention in a commercial newspaper.

The in-depth story on the payday loan industry, published in the Winter 2011 print edition, is another great example of business coverage not from the perspective of people who invest in businesses, but from that of average consumers. That’s not the approach that the business page of a daily newspaper usually takes.

What is the biggest challenge that the organization faces?

Money to bring readers more and better independent reporting. We currently have bigger ambitions than resources. We have more than 75 active freelance contributors, volunteers and interns, and a larger network of supporters across the Bay Area. We would love to be able to pay our staff competitive freelance rates and publish both the paper and the website more frequently.

What can we expect from the Public Press in 2012?

We are already developing two big collaborative reporting projects for the next two issues, and we hope to roll out additional reporting on the low-income finance industry, environment, transportation, and housing and homelessness. Our dream is to increase frequency of the publication to monthly by the end of next year.

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Will you help Michael bring serious, independent news back to San Francisco? Memberships start at $35 for one year. Contributions of all sizes are welcome, and are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please become a member today

 

Coming this week: Issue No. 5

The San Francisco Public Press remains a unique offering. Call us a story of “old-school entrepreneurialism.” With every print edition we get sharper and more adept at producing a publication chock-filled with important local stories and serious, in-depth reporting — and not one paid ad.

We're incredibly excited to announce the impending arrival of our Winter 2011 print edition (Issue No. 5). It's hitting the streets this week. You can find copies at your local bookstore for just $1 (find locations). If you're a member — or become one — expect your copy in the mail soon.

This four-color broadsheet features several original stories, including a special section that tackles the Healthy San Francisco program, the city's unique attempt at local “universal” health care. We found that the quality of the care is great, but there is a high hidden cost in the form of reliance on federal grants and an overstretched network of community clinics that are facing a flood of new patients. The story touches on the national health care debate as many local and state governments attempt to provide their own universal care systems. We are rolling the health care stories on the web this week and will publish the stories listed below as we deliver, mail and hawk the paper in the city.

What else can you expect? We examine an initiative called “restorative justice” being pioneered in San Francisco that tries to get students diverted from suspension and expulsion. By diverting offenders to peer courts where they are confronted by their victims and own up to their misdeeds, the San Francisco Unified School District has reduced suspensions and expulsions to among the lowest levels in the Bay Area. Other school districts are following San Francisco’s lead.

The paper also features a report on the San Francisco Police Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking, and how experts say street arrests of prostitutes conducted over the summer may actually have frustrated their ability to help victims.

And we have a great story on efforts to relax restrictions on “payday” loans, and why some of the biggest banks, including San Francisco’s own Wells Fargo, have invested in an industry that offers short-term loans to low-income people at interest once considered “usurious” by the state of California. Some state legislators are nonetheless working to allow these profitable storefront businesses to lend even more money at annual interest rates of 400 percent, or more.

Buy a copy at any one of 50 Bay Area locations. We will be making deliveries throughout the day and will update the page as copies arrive at each location.

If you'd like a copy hot off the press, stop by our office at 965 Mission St., Suite 220, after 8 a.m. this Wednesday.

Thanks!

The Editors

Who really pays for San Francisco to cover the uninsured?

UPDATE: Thank you to all the supporters who donated to see these stories published! The report was published in the Winter 2011 edition of the Public Press. Read more: http://sfpublicpress.org/news/healthy-sf

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Could San Francisco have figured out a model for providing universal health care on a tight budget?

The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at USC Annenberg is helping to sponsor a reporting project by the San Francisco Public Press to take a closer look at whether local health care reform ideas are working in one major metropolis.

The city recently launched a grand experiment, stringing together a bare-bones community clinic network and a county hospital into an ersatz universal health care program.
 
Local officials claim to be saving millions of dollars through coordination, prevention and digital medical records. If the program pencils out as promised in San Francisco, it might be a model for the nation or other cities. Gavin Newsom, who ascended from San Francisco’s mayor to lieutenant governor, made such promises, but he left the city in January. Now the Department of Public Health is working hard to reduce costs and improve health outcomes.
 
Healthy San Francisco was designed to bring health care to San Francisco’s estimated 73,000 uninsured adults. Two years later, at least two-thirds of them — or 54,000 people — had enrolled, and the system was delivering health care at a cost of $126 million.
 
The city deems the program a success as measured in social equity. But there has been little analysis of cost savings. No media outlet has thoroughly reported whether Healthy San Francisco is a better financial bet than the former patchwork of private insurers and public hospital emergency rooms covering the medical emergencies of the uninsured.
 
At a time when federal health care reform is under attack — with Congressional Republicans threatening to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and 28 states challenging it in court — we need to take a closer look at whether a local version of universal health care is cost effective. Congressional opponents of the federal system are most concerned about cost, claiming that the new law will balloon the deficit. States argue that the federal law violates their sovereignty and that of its citizens.
 
A close examination of the finances and cost-effectiveness of Healthy San Francisco would be welcome reading for anyone interested in the future of health care in the U.S. Our story also will provide lessons for other municipalities and states considering how to address health care access shortages at a time of squeezed budgets and rising costs.
 
We are developing a data-driven story examining the cost effectiveness of Healthy San Francisco and laying out the context of past efforts to include those who lacked health coverage. We will find out how much is being spent, how much is being saved, and by whom and what trend lines can be expected (as a whole and on a per capita basis). We’ll also assess the costs to medical practitioners, users and hospitals.
 
Qualifications
 
We've assembled a team of four experienced reporters, a photographer, a graphic designer and a social media expert to tackle the story from the angles of changing medical records technology, preventive medicine and emergency room costs.
  • Barbara Grady is a veteran reporter who has written for Reuters, the Oakland Tribune, MSNBC.com, Oakland Local, Patch, Business 2.0 magazine and various nonprofits in addition to SF Public Press. She was a 2009 recipient of a national "excellence in journalism" award from the Society of Professional Journalists. 
  • Reporter Kyung Jin Lee is an editor at the National Radio Project, and has written freelance stories for a wide array of local and national publications.
  • Angela Hart is a longtime reporter for the San Francisco Public Press who has written about media, development and the San Francisco budget. She is the editor of Rohnert Park Patch.
  • Alice Joy is a former reporter for the Hollister Free-Lance, where she focused on education and health.
  • Jason Winshell is photo editor for the Public Press.
  • Tom Guffey is design director for the Public Press.
  • Ambika Kandasamy is a Public Press reporter focusing on social media engagement through Facebook, Twitter and other tools.
Deliverables
The San Francisco Public Press is developing a package of in-depth stories covering the Healthy San Francisco program from multiple angles. The stories, interviews and photos will be the centerpiece of the winter 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press — a local nonprofit, noncommercial startup news organization.
 
We are working with various public-media and civic partners to magnify the reach of this story. We are working to develop a public discussion in San Francisco this fall based on our project, and have plans to turn the reporting into a polished radio story to air on a local or statewide public broadcaster.
 
We are planning to use SFPublicPress.org to host audio interviews with a wide range of formerly uninsured users of the system to ask: Is Healthy San Francisco affordable to you? Are you getting the care you deserve?Could San Francisco have figured out the model for providing universal health care on a budget?

Can S.F.'s next mayor save Muni?

With a $23 million deficit only two months into the fiscal year and on-time performance stuck at a measly 72.9 percent, San Francisco’s public transit system, Muni, is clearly in trouble. Riders bear the brunt of Muni’s woes as it tries to balance the budget.

What do San Francisco’s mayoral candidates have to say about Muni’s financial plight as well as the other problems — reliability and Muni overtime — that have been plaguing the system for years?

Public Press Muni beat reporter Jerold Chinn (@jchinn84) and photographer Steven Rhodes (@tigerbeat) are interviewing the top mayoral candidates on their plans to improve Muni’s service and fund the transit agency.

You can make the reporting possible by pitching in a few dollars or taking a short survey at Spot.Us:

http://spot.us/pitches/1072-can-s-f-s-next-mayor-save-muni

You will get a chance to see and hear what the mayoral candidates' plans are to improve Muni service and help fund the transit agency if they become mayor on Nov. 8, 2011.

Thanks for your help.

SF Public Press Crossword Creator Featured in New Documentary

For Andrea Carla Michaels, who has been crafting crossword puzzles for about thirty years, a good puzzle is “the same thing that makes you laugh — you don’t know quite what it’s going to be, but it’s something unexpected and it’s something that resonates deep inside.”

Michaels, who creates crossword puzzles for the quarterly print edition to the San Francisco Public Press, is a regular puzzle contributor to The New York Times. She is featured in a charming new short documentary “Life in Black and White” by San Francisco filmmaker, Regina Rivard. The film sheds light on four Bay Area residents whose lives center on black and white — a crossword puzzle-maker, an aquatic biologist who works with penguins, a piano tuner and a Domino club founder.

Watch the interview with Michaels here:

Film credits:

Producer/Director/Editor: Regina Rivard

DP: Josh Hittleman, Rob Fitzgerald, Bevan Bell

Audio Tech/Post: Ben Morse

Music: Andy Greenwood

Once Magazine, an iPad photojournalism app, launches in San Francisco

There are promising media startups all over the Bay Area, and one experiment in high-quality photography is based in San Francisco and launches today.

It’s an iPad app called Once Magazine, and it’s founded by our very own Jackson Solway, who designed the first print edition of the Public Press last year and also directed photography for local publisher McSweeney’s on its 2009 San Francisco Panorama newspaper project.

Solway has been slaving away with a handful of ultrabright colleagues in the company’s sparse Dogpatch headquarters focused on creating what they say is a first — an app for the iPad that takes photojournalism to a new level by giving it the attention and design sensibility it deserves. There are many undereployed but brilliantly talented photographers out there with too few paying outlets.

Once Magazine is unique in that it relies mostly on app sales through iTunes, so you know it will be very attentive to the response it gets from its audience. There are other players ostensibly in the field, including the Guardian in the UK and National Geographic, but none that we know of with the kind of focus of Once.

The idea is simple, Solway explained in a recent chat: Gather the best photojournalists from around the world and display a rotating gallery of narrative photography shot with a journalistic sensibility — telling a story about a subject somewhere in the world that could be thought of as news, with short well-edited summaries and some multimedia add-ons.

We think it’s a promising model, and one that deserves immediate downloading by anyone with an iPad. Check it out: http://bit.ly/p8n4q6. The first issue is free. Next month’s issue is $2.99. Makes me want to run out and join the iPaderati.

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The launch was a silver lining of sorts that came a day after the Bay Area News Group announced that it would “improve” its coverage by consolidating more than a dozen newspapers that are already owned by one mega Denver-based company into three newspaper titles — leading to “efficiencies” that would allow the MediaNews group to lay off about 120 people. Oh happy day. Except for residents of the East Bay and the Peninsula, who will lose the venerable centenarian mastheads of the Oakland Tribune and the San Mateo County Times.

In the spring 2011 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press we focused on the woes of the downsizing commercial press over the last 10 years. As contributor David Weir wrote, the picture for a robust Fourth Estate may appear grim with the layoff of hundreds of local journalists, particularly in newspapers, but there are about 5,000 media startups right now in and around San Francisco working hard to shake things up — mostly through new platforms and novel technologies. San Francisco, meet Once Magazine.

SF Public Press partners with KQED Public Broadcasting on Networked Journalism project

KQED Public Media is partnering with the San Francisco Public Press and three other Bay Area nonprofit news organizations to share news stories on the radio and online. The project, called “Networked Journalism,” is an initiative incubated by J Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

We are thrilled that KQED, the largest public broadcaster in the region, is reaching out to startup news organizations such as the Public Press that are expanding the definition of public media. We have gotten coverage of this partnership and congratulations from all across the country, including Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard and the magazine of the public broadcasting industry, Current.

We think this will help position the Public Press as a leader in public media locally as we seek funding, public attention and future collaborations. KQED will be featuring our reporters on air on a regular basis in short radio “debriefs” about our stories. We don’t typically do breaking news, but original stories that explain the context of the news. This emphasis on news partnerships is a great follow-up to KQED’s recent emphasis on shoring up its own newsroom operations, hiring more journalists and scheduling additional time on the air for local news.

We are very heartened that KQED has come to see us as a reliable and professional news source in the two years we have been in operation. Our coverage complements the kind of stories aired on KQED. We are focused on San Francisco-specific stories that no one else is covering — particularly those that address the concerns of under-served audiences. In addition to explaining how the San Francisco budget affects social services and other government programs, the centerpiece package of our latest print edition, we also cover public transportation, housing and homelessness, the nonprofit sector and “low finance” — the ways working people get access to capital.

The San Francisco Public Press published its fourth ad-free print newspaper edition last week, an issue that included an edited transcript of an episode of the KQED Radio program “Forum” with Michael Krasny. We have worked with more than 20 nonprofit news and civic affairs organizations over the past year to provide a print hub that pulls the best from local public media. We look forward to working more closely with KQED to shore up this mutually beneficial cross-fertilization. 

The press statement by KQED:

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Ian Hill

Tel: 415.553.2216, ihill [AT] kqed.org



KQED Launches Groundbreaking Partnership for News

Country’s most-listened-to public radio station collaborating with several independent local news outlets

San Francisco, August 10, 2011— KQED has become the first public media organization in the country to join a groundbreaking national program that connects broadcast and print news outlets with local online-first news organizations. The innovative collaboration highlights both the increased importance of blogs when it comes to producing community news and KQED’s commitment to providing Bay Area residents with a diverse array of news and information.

Through the Networked Journalism program, KQED is working with the Bay Area news organizations Berkeleyside (berkeleyside.com), Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com), NeighborWebSJ (neighborwebsj.com), and the San Francisco Public Press (sfpublicpress.org). Each organization’s posts can be read on KQEDnews.org, covering topics ranging from city council meetings and crime to community fairs and transportation issues. Staffers from organizations collaborating with KQED also are contributing to stories produced by KQED Public Radio.

Networked Journalism is a national effort founded by J Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism that has helped established partnerships between online-only outlets and traditional news organizations like The Oregonian and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspapers. It is supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“We are enthusiastic about working with the Networked Journalism initiative.  And we’re excited about this opportunity to work with local news groups and organizations across the Bay Area to present a more diverse, more in-depth news service for our respective online news readers and radio listeners,” remarked Jo Anne Wallace, Vice President and General Manager, KQED Public Radio.

As part of the project, staffers from Bay Area news organizations are also receiving training at KQED in radio production and exploring networking opportunities, as well as other possibilities for collaboration. KQED Community News Coordinator Molly Samuel emphasized that working with KQED has many benefits for local news outlets.

“We’re planning events and training so partners can meet each other and expand their skill sets. That will mean that our partners can do even more effective reporting in their communities, and be able to sustain themselves, despite a tough economy and limited resources,” Samuel said. “More and better journalism can only be a good thing, not just for KQED News listeners and readers, but for the Bay Area in general.”

Networked Journalism began in 2009 by working with 25 websites. It has since expanded to include partnerships with 65 websites nationally.

About KQED

KQED (kqed.org) has served Northern California for more than 50 years and is affiliated with NPR and PBS. KQED owns and operates public television stations KQED 9 (San Francisco/Bay Area), KQED Plus (San Jose/Bay Area), and KQET 25 (Watsonville/Monterey); KQED Public Radio (88.5FM San Francisco and 89.3FM Sacramento); the interactive platforms kqed.org and KQEDnews.org; and KQED Education. KQED Public Television, one of the nation's most-watched public television stations, is the producer of local and national series such as QUEST; Check, Please! Bay Area; This Week in Northern California; Truly CA; and Essential Pépin.  KQED's digital television channels include 9HD, KQED Life, KQED World, KQED Kids, and KQED V-me, and are available 24/7 on Comcast.  KQED Public Radio, home of Forum with Michael Krasny and The California Report, is one of the most-listened-to public radio stations in the nation with an award-winning news and public affairs program service delivering more than eighteen local newscasts daily.  KQED Interactive provides KQED’s cross-platform news service, KQEDnews.org, as well as offers several popular local blogs, video and audio podcasts, and a live radio stream at kqed.org. KQED Education brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents, and the general public through workshops, community screenings, and multimedia resources.

SF Public Press Fall 2011 edition focuses on city budget — launch event Aug. 13

CONTACT:

Michael Stoll, Executive Director
Lila LaHood, Director of Operations and Development
(415) 495-7377 — news [AT] sfpublicpress.org
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
 

The San Francisco Public Press publishes its fall 2011 print edition — the fourth since launching last summer — on Wednesday, Aug. 10, with a special section on the prospect of better city budgeting, and engaging stories from 16 local public media and civic organizations.
 
The headliner for Issue 4 is a collaborative project with Shareable.net, a website focusing on the sharing movement, exploring how San Francisco’s perennial budget-cutting process might be improved. Reporters looked at the growing trend of “participatory budgeting,” the use of the Internet to promote transparency and the unfulfilled promise of government audits to identify and eliminate millions of dollars in waste.
 
The package also includes examples of how budget cuts almost derailed some vital city services, such as naturalization services for senior citizens, and how nonprofit organizations are forced to lobby politicians to “add back” funds after the budget passes.
 
The 16-page, two-section broadsheet newspaper will be available for sale for $1 at about 50 locations around the Bay Area. The print run is 8,000 copies. Parts of the budget package will be published online first on Shareable.net and later on SFpublicpress.org.
 
The latest edition of the Public Press also features in-depth policy-focused stories from partner organizations such as KQED’s “Forum” with Michael Krasny, California Watch/Center for Investigative Reporting, KALW News, the San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association, California Northern Magazine and new partners such as the bilingual newspaper El Tecolote and the Public Policy Institute of California.
 
“The fall issue focuses on vital public policy choices facing the city of San Francisco in an unprecedented era of year-after-year budget cutting,” said Michael Stoll, the organization’s executive director. “It shows that small startup public media organizations can do important public-interest explanatory news reporting and fill in some of the gaps left by the ever-shrinking commercial press.”
 
The papers will arrive on Wednesday, August 10, at 6 a.m. and go on sale immediately at the Public Press office at 965 Mission Street, Suite 220, in San Francisco. Newspapers will be distributed to Bay Area retailers throughout the day. A regularly updated list of retailers carrying the paper can be found on the website: http://sfpublicpress.org/where-to-buy-the-newspaper. Also, check our Twitter (http://twitter.com/sfpublicpress) and Facebook (http://facebook.com/sfpublicpress) pages for live updates on where to get a copy.
 
LAUNCH PARTY: NOON ON SATURDAY, AUG. 13, CRISSY FIELD. The Public Press is sponsoring a “print launch picnic” on Saturday, Aug. 13, to celebrate Issue 4 and the more than 50 people who put it together. Drop by the East Beach picnic area at Crissy Field between noon and 3 p.m. for a family friendly afternoon of food, drinks and games. We’ll also be handing out free copies of the newspaper. Please remember to RSVP so that we bring enough food: http://sfpublicpress-picnic.eventbrite.com. Volunteers will be collecting donations — “sliding scale, pay as you wish” — at the picnic.
 
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The San Francisco Public Press is a local, nonprofit, noncommercial news organization covering local public-interest journalism — with a focus on economy, civics and streetscape — in the Bay Area. We aim to do for print and Web what public broadcasting does for television and radio. We produce news online daily and in a quarterly print newspaper.
 
Sign up for our newsletter: http://www.sfpublicpress.org/newsletter

Public Press coverage of Bay Area media meltdown featured on national #wjchat

This week’s #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web journalists on Twitter, was on a topic that is significant to journalists and nonjournalists alike: the future of journalism jobs.
 
The chat was founded by Robert Hernandez, assistant professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California, Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism, and Kim Bui, social media and communication editor at KPCC 89.3-FM in Pasadena.
 
According to the organizers, the focus for this week’s conversation was inspired by a series of articles on the Bay Area media landscape that was published by the San Francisco Public Press this spring.
 
@wjchat This #wjchat we're talking the future of journalism jobs - inspired by @sfpublicpress recent report: http://bit.ly/jvMQgK Send us Qs!
 
The stories in the package include: a quantitative and qualitative analysis of how news organizations in the Bay Area are coping with smaller staff, the influence and emergence of thousands of new media startups in the area, and the impact of the shortage of ad-revenue on local broadcast journalists. The stories are available online and in the spring print edition.
 
Some of the key questions discussed in this week’s #wjchat session are:
  1. @wjchat Q1B What skill sets would you need to get hired in this new future? #wjchat
  2. @wjchatQ5 Are core journalistic ethics changing in this new landscape? Should they? #wjchat
  3. @wjchat Q7 Are failing news orgs worth saving? Is this evolution and natural selection at work?
We thank the organizers and participants of #wjchat for this discourse.
 
Discussions like this are crucial to the revitalization and reinvention of the news industry both locally and nationally. Some hold the view that journalism is facing dark times that can only be rectified by the bright glow of content-rich news websites on computer screens, smart phones and tablets. Some believe that dusting off and resuscitating rusted printing presses can be of immense value to the community, especially in eradicating the digital divide.
 
There is much debate and discussion within the journalism community about what is next, what to expect, and what paths to take in terms of finding jobs in the field, maintaining journalistic ethics in a rapidly mutating digital environment, and producing long-form and investigative features in newsrooms where journalism jobs are evaporating, among many other questions.
 
But undoubtedly, the future of journalism will touch all of us.
 
With this in mind, the voices of community members are just as important as the voices of journalists in building the news ecosystem of the coming years.
So to continue the conversation, we ask everyone:
 
How have the loss of journalism jobs in the Bay Area affected you? Are the issues that matter to you being covered by your local news organizations? What types of innovations have you seen or would like to see in the news industry?
 

We want to hear from you. Share your responses and questions by leaving comments here, on Twitter (@sfpublicpress) or on our Facebook page. 

SF Public Press joins Reuters national nonprofit news distribution deal

The San Francisco Public Press will start distributing selected news stories through the Thompson Reuters newswire in a deal brokered by the Investigative News Network, the two organizations announced earlier this week.

Articles will be distributed internationally and available to all of Reuters’ customers — news organizations that distribute in print, online and in broadcast media. 

The network, a consortium of more than 50 nonprofit news organizations, many of them startups, was founded last year in an effort to share news stories and operational resources to increase the reach of the journalism the organizations produce. They include the Center for Public Integrity, California Watch, MinnPost  and the St. Louis Beacon. Seven members are located in the Bay Area. They are SF Public Press, California Watch/Center for Investigative Reporting, Spot.Us, Newsdesk.org, New America Media, Oakland Local and the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism.

Of the members of the network, 30 are participating in the Reuters deal.

“Investigative reporting is at the forefront of our mission, and we’re excited to expand our reach and serve Reuters clients around the globe,” said Kevin Davis, chief executive officer of the Investigative News Network.

The Public Press already syndicates its stories to Yahoo! and the Bay Citizen, and is developing distribution relationships with other publishers. 

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