MIAMI, FLORIDA — When the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) received a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in September of 2010, it marked the launch of Florida’s first nonprofit bilingual online investigative reporting organization. Located at the International Media Center at Florida International University, FCIR is emerging as a leader in investigative news and an innovator in bringing relevant information on government corruption and waste to the state’s Spanish-speaking communities.
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FCIR, a member of the Investigative News Network, is a relatively new establishment even in the web news community, but you wouldn’t know it from surveying the depth of its work and the magnitude of its news collaborations. Though it operates with a small staff–associate directors Mc Nelly Torres and Trevor Aaronson, blogger/reporter Ralph De La Cruz, an intern from Florida International University in Miami, and the occasional couple of freelancers–FCIR has no problem breaking and reporting big news. Some of FCIR’s success can certainly be attributed to its willingness to establish partnerships with a diverse range of news organizations, including traditional and ethnic outlets. Torres, also a reporter, made it clear that FCIR views other organizations not as competition, but as potential collaborators.
For example, FCIR has partnered with El Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico. This collaboration began when, in 2009, El Centro teamed up with Torres, then a freelancer, to conduct an investigative report on the role a corporation played in a deadly refinery explosion in Puerto Rico. Today, FCIR and El Centro regularly share content–an arrangement that helps both organizations give their readers a multicultural viewpoint on investigative reports. Additionally, FCIR provides content for traditional and ethnic media organizations like Azteca America SWFL, a Spanish television station in southwest Florida; Florida National Public Radio; La Gaceta, a trilingual newspaper based in Tampa; Caribbean Today; El Poder de Miami; and La Prensa in Orlando.
Some of the most popular stories published by FCIR have included a report on illegitimate online high school degree programs; “lettermarking” by Floridian politicians, and the inconsistent tactics of Secure Communities, a federal immigration-enforcement program. The report on Secure Communities was also picked up by El Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico and written in Spanish as well.
There are approximately 3.8 million Spanish speakers in Florida, and FCIR’s emphasis on bilingual outreach sets it apart from the state’s other online news outlets. Torres, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, sees Florida as “the gateway to Latin America” and believes FCIR’s bilingual dimension makes the site particularly attractive to funders. As of now, FCIR only translates into Spanish its biggest, most popular stories, but the site also plans to hire a Spanish-fluent blogger to provide a steady stream of Spanish content. Additionally, FCIR publishes Spanish-language content from El Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico.
As with any news startup, funding and sustainability issues are constantly on management’s minds. In addition to the original one year grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Torres says the site has received significant contributions from the Society of Environmental Journalists, Fund for Investigative Journalism, and the Center on Media, Crime, and Journalism (which in February 2011 gave FCIR $4,999 for research on Florida’s criminal justice system). FCIR is also able to sell its content to other organizations.
Investigative reporting continues to disappear in traditional media, but organizations like FCIR are certainly keeping it alive on the Internet. “The cycle of news has become so fast and there’s not enough time for analysis,” says Torres. “But the public wants investigative reporting.” With its innovative take on bilingual online journalism as well as its traditional and ethnic news partnerships, FCIR is certainly giving the public what it wants–and what it needs.
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting Data
Name: Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
City: MiamiJustin Yang is a contributor to CJR.