New England Center for Investigative Reporting: Project Summary

New England Center for Investigative Reporting is an award-winning nonprofit investigative reporting news outlet based at WGBH (PBS and NPR in Boston) and Boston University with a national and regional focus. Its mission is to ensure the survival of serious, in-depth investigative journalism, which it accomplishes by producing high-impact multimedia stories, training journalists and introducing high school students to professional journalism through acclaimed summer workshops.

In this audience engagement venture, NECIR will host a series of two to four public events in the Boston area to engage citizens finding earmarked funding within state and local budgets.

This project builds upon the success of a pilot in which NECIR created a Twitter bot that tweeted from a list of hundreds of earmarks in the state budget. The experiment created an instant buzz, with ordinary citizens and state policy buffs alike following the bot and reacting to earmarks they found questionable, appalling or even amusing.

NECIR wants to harness that interest and host these events to teach citizens more about earmarks, rather than simply creating more news apps. Citizens would be empowered to do their own reporting, sharing findings with each other in real time and with the wider public via a standalone web destination curated by NECIR. The outlet plans to work with its partner WGBH News to build attendance.

Reviewers thought this project was an interesting spin on in-person engagement. They liked that this project could be replicable on a wide scale and draws interested readers to contribute in a meaningful way rather than just make comments. This project already has shown to be of great interest in the Boston area.

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