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New ProPublica Site Birddogs the Bailouts

April 16, 2009

The investigative outlet ProPublica has created a new site devoted to tracking the government bailouts.

Called “Eye on the Bailout,” the site is an attempt to have as much information as possible on the topic in one place.

The top of the site, for instance features a color-coded graphic that breaks down the size of the bailout by who’s getting it. Banks so far have directly gotten $247 million, while $100 billion has been spent on toxic assets, for instance. I really like one chart that shows every single bailout recipient in order of the size of the bailout, although I’m not sure why ProPublica only includes Treasury bailout numbers in its headline numbers and doesn’t count that from the Fed.

AIG, for example, is listed as the biggest bailout recipient having gotten $70 billion. But it’s really gotten $180 billion, when you include the Fed’s assistance.

We’ve been working hard over the past six months to keep tabs on the billions flowing from the Treasury Department. But as the government’s response to the financial crisis has grown and scattered, it’s gotten harder and harder to lay it all out for readers.

The site we’re unveiling today will hopefully make all that a lot easier.

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I like the idea of having a single place to go to find out the latest news on who the government’s handing your money to. ProPublica selects the best bailout stories from around the Internet and aggregates them in one handy spot, and the central blog contains its own original reporting. The new site is a cousin of ProPublica’s Eye on the Stimulus blog, which performs similar functions as a clearinghouse for spending information.

There are a number of other helpful tools, including a map of the bailouts and a timeline. The latter should be a useful aid for reporters—one of several on the site. No more searching for the latest story with the latest bailout update for Citigroup, say.

It’s a good idea. ProPublica is really taking advantage of what the Web can do.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.