Tag Archives: Mike Webb

ProPublica: Susan White on the secret to being a successful editor

ProPublica has published the full transcript of a podcast interview with outgoing senior editor Susan White. White gives some interesting insights into how things work at the US’ best-known non-profit investigative outfit and her own way of going about being an editor.

She spoke to PropPublica’s director of communications Mike Webb and managing editor Steven Engelberg.

Mike: Why don’t we walk through an investigation? How does an idea originate and what do you tell the reporter to do, once you hear that idea?

Susan: I rarely tell reporters to do anything. I don’t think that’s the role of the editor. I guide, I steer, and I encourage and I help shape, but I don’t give reporters marching orders.

Mike: Is that because you think they’re wise enough to know the first steps?

Susan: Right, well… The best ideas come from reporters, not editors. I don’t think since I’ve been at ProPublica I have assigned anyone a story. I rarely have throughout my editing career. Usually a reporter comes to me and we have this idea. We vet it at the top here, at ProPublica, because if we’re going to work on something for a long time, we want to make sure that it’s going to work out.

Read the full transcript or listen to the podcast at this link.

ProPublica launches ‘matchmaker’ to pair case studies with local journalists

Non-profit US investigative organisation ProPublica has got so many ‘loan modification’ case studies it is now playing matchmaker, linking contacts and stories with local journalists from other publications and broadcasters as part of its reporter network project.

Numerous American homeowners have had problems obtaining ‘loan modifications’, a national programme with some major flaws.

More than three million people are eligible and more than one million might be currently involved in the loan modification process, ProPublica’s Mike Webb said, explaining the scale and level of interest.

“We’re doing this because more than 800 homeowners have shared their stories with us about the numerous problems they’ve had in obtaining a modification,” he said.

“We’ve shared many of their stories in our reports, but there are just too many to publish.  So we’re hoping local reporters can talk to the homeowners and local banks to help your readers understand how the program works (or doesn’t work).”

Very quickly, ProPublica had 40 reporters sign up to be be paired. “It’s a continuation of our sharing approach, like the reporting recipe, and stimulus data sets,” said Webb.

“We know that news organisations don’t give up their sources to their competitors, but we’re a different kind of publication,” say reporters Amanda Michel and Paul Kiel, on their blog.