Friday, March 19, 2010

Fair Warning: Here Comes FairWarning

A couple of former Los Angeles Times staffers next week plan to launch a new, nonprofit news service called FairWarning that will focus on "safety and health issues facing consumers and workers, and related topics of government and corporate accountability," according to a statement released Thursday. The site will go live March 24.

The new organization will be led by Myron Levin with help from Joanna Lin and three graduate journalism students from UC-Berkeley and the University of Southern California. The organization also has an all-star board of directors, including:

* Margaret Engel, director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation and a former editor and reporter for The Washington Post
*Chuck Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication
*Vernon Loeb, deputy managing editor for news and multimedia at The Philadelphia Inquirer
*Bill Marimow, editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner
*Henry Weinstein, a law professor at UC Irvine, former Los Angeles Times reporter and a founder of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

I asked Lewis what he found compelling about Levin's vision for FairWarning. Here's what he told me in an email:

Over the years, I had known and had great respect for Myron Levin's important work investigating the tobacco companies and other health and safety subjects. The idea that someone that talented suddenly had nowhere to do that kind of in-depth work was outrageous and unacceptable. Myron asked if I (as the first incubated "new models" project of the Investigative Reporting Workshop's iLab) would help him form a 501c3 nonprofit and I helped him get a small grant from the Public Welfare Foundation to get moving, and I am honored now to serve on his Board.

In the Great Recession, Myron has gone out and singlehandedly landed two other much larger grants, and important stories are springing forth. He's off to the races. This is an increasingly familiar story today -- veteran investigative reporter also becomes editor and publisher, as a necessary act of entrepreneurialism, all for the public good. It is thrilling and inspiring to behold.

In the statement, Levin said he founded FairWarning "as a new model for presenting essential news and information that is underreported or absent from traditional media."

“Even before news budgets went into free fall, few news organizations gave adequate attention to safety and health investigations, despite the potential to save readers from injury or death,” Levin said. “In today’s hollowed-out newsrooms, even fewer reporters can tackle these complex and time-intensive stories. We want to help fill the gap.”

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