Partner on projects. For reporters not under the pressure of daily deadlines, Jennings recommends pulling back and doing more in-depth packages when possible. In Depth’s stock-in-trade is project reporting. Its mission statement reads:
We want our journalism to be analytical, to tackle big questions and complex issues. We hope to give a more contextual and comprehensive picture of life in our communities and make it available to as many New Mexicans as possible. That’s why working with news organizations with wide audiences is critical to our mission
Along with “Medicaid Freeze,” Jennings points to a Native America reporting project, done in partnership with the Las Cruces Sun-News, and a Mexico border reporting series, spearheaded by In Depth’s deputy director, Heath Haussamen (who ran NMpolitics.net for seven years before helping to co-found In Depth). In partnership with the Santa Fe New Mexican and Las Cruces Sun-News—two of a handful of In Depth “media partners”—Jennings and team have also examined Gov. Martinez’s tenure and posted a searchable database of state officials’ financial disclosure forms for 2013. “They’re not online anywhere else,” the database’s intro reads, “so New Mexico In Depth is posting 2013 financial disclosure forms for Gov. Susana Martinez and hundreds of other state officials in a searchable database.”
Be people-focused. For the “Medicaid Freeze” project, Jennings said In Depth has focused on overworked providers and the fallout for patients experiencing interrupted services. That was a tall order where confidentiality protects identities of patients and caregivers. In Depth and its media partners were able to document some of the problems by speaking with school districts where some students had become more disruptive because of diminished services. They’ve also listened in on a related hearing and teleconferences between state and federal officials.
In a report carried by In Depth New Mexico, media partner KUNM-FM, the state’s largest public radio station, reported on behavioral health clients facing disrupted services around the state. Last month, KUNM reported on therapists struggling to meet patients’ needs even as state officials claimed the transition for displaced patients to new care providers was “smooth.”
New Mexico journalists have also been hindered by the state’s unwillingness to release the complete audit—done by a private Boston-based firm—that led to the funding freeze. In Depth New Mexico and partner, the Las Cruces Sun-News, filed a lawsuit in late August seeking release of the full audit. Since then, New Mexico’s Foundation for Open Government has filed a similar lawsuit to try to get the documents open to the public.
Missing are specific details documented at each of the 15 providers. Jennings has taken Gov. Martinez to task for not answering media questions and not releasing the audit. He says the audit is critical to helping establish whether the state really had “credible allegations of fraud” before they froze funding to the agencies, invited five Arizona providers in to take over the behavioral health system, and, in effect, left many of New Mexico’s most vulnerable hanging.
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