Capitol News Illinois, ProPublica to continue award-winning reporting partnership

Capitol News Illinois, ProPublica to continue award-winning reporting partnership

ProPublica announced the addition of five new partner newsrooms and local journalists to its Local Reporting Network, including another two-year partnership with Capitol News Illinois.

Through the partnership, CNI reporter Molly Parker will serve as an LRN fellow, co-publishing investigations with the two news outlets.

Last year, Parker and her reporting partner at Capitol News Illinois, Beth Hundsdorfer, won a Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for a series exposing patient abuses and cover-ups at a state-run mental health facility in rural Illinois. The pair won the Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability for that same series earlier this year.

The work prompted significant changes at the center and resulted in a state law intended to crack down on workers who obstruct investigations and hide patient abuse.

Parker was previously an LRN fellow during her time at the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale and at Lee Enterprises Midwest. The fellowship was continued when she joined CNI in July 2023.

“I’m honored that our newsroom has earned the continued trust of a prestigious news organization such as ProPublica,” Capitol News Illinois Editor-in-Chief Jerry Nowicki said. “I look forward to the journalism this talented team will produce over the next two years.

The other selected journalists are Beenish Ahmed with Michigan Radio; Nick Grube with Honolulu Civil Beat; Phoebe Petrovic with Wisconsin Watch; and Richard A. Webster with Verite News. Parker and Webster have previously participated in the program. These new partnerships are supported by a grant from the Abrams Foundation. The projects will begin on Jan. 2 and continue for two years.

“We’re thrilled to be able to work with these new partners for two years,” said ProPublica’s Assistant Managing Editor Sarah Blustain. “The expanded fellowships will allow us to build strong newsroom relationships and develop a range of high-impact investigative projects.”

Molly Parker — Capitol News Illinois
Molly Parker is an investigative reporter for Capitol News Illinois, the nonprofit arm of the Illinois Press Foundation, which distributes stories about state government to more than 800 newsrooms across the state. This is Parker’s third fellowship with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

In 2018, as a reporter with The Southern Illinoisan, Parker reported on unsafe public housing conditions and corruption in Cairo, Illinois, which prompted federal authorities to take over the local housing authority and pay to relocate about 400 people. She also examined public housing failures across the country, leading to sweeping changes to how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspects its properties.

Parker is an assistant professor of journalism at Southern Illinois University and also has reported for newspapers in South Carolina, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Beenish Ahmed — Michigan Radio
Beenish Ahmed is a criminal justice reporter at Michigan Radio. In 2023, she was named Best Reporter by the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors.

Ahmed has reported on concerns from detainees at the Wayne County Jail about extensive periods of pretrial detention during the early days of COVID-19, after which the county launched a public-facing dashboard; on police responses to mental health calls after Detroit police killed a young man who was having a schizophrenic episode; and on the efforts to reconsider the cases of hundreds of people who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles in Michigan. An investigation she conducted for WNYC into a billion-dollar subway station renovation program found a lack of accommodations for disabled people — and ultimately led to the program’s cancellation.

Ahmed has reported from Pakistan, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi and the United Arab Emirates and is the founder of The Alignist, a cultural capsule project through which international fiction meets international news. She has been a WNYC education reporter, a Spencer fellow at the Columbia School of Journalism, a Kroc fellow at NPR and a Fulbright scholar to the United Kingdom. Ahmed is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Nick Grube — Honolulu Civil Beat
Nick Grube is a Washington, D.C.-based reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat, a nonprofit newsroom focused on investigative and accountability journalism. He has covered a wide range of topics, including police corruption and the influence of money in politics, and his work has had a lasting impact in the islands, exposing rampant abuses of power within the Honolulu Police Department and sinking the nomination of a would-be U.S. Marshal. Grube’s stories about police misconduct have led to numerous changes in Hawaii law to improve access to public records and hold officers more accountable, including the creation of a statewide standards and training board. There’s even a Hawaii Supreme Court case bearing his name, Grube v. Trader, that reaffirmed the public’s constitutional right to access court documents and proceedings.

Grube has won numerous awards for his reporting, including from the Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club. Prior to Civil Beat, Grube worked as a local reporter in Oregon, California and Wisconsin.

Phoebe Petrovic — Wisconsin Watch
Phoebe Petrovic is an investigative reporter at Wisconsin Watch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan outlet dedicated to public service. She interrogated the state’s criminal system as the lead reporter, producer and host of “Open and Shut,” a podcast from Wisconsin Watch and Wisconsin Public Radio that was a finalist for the Livingston Award and won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.

Petrovic’s award-winning investigations have exposed a legally questionable sentencing scheme and sexual harassment cover-ups. They have traced well-funded disinformation, documented the harms of laws targeting people who are pregnant or LGBTQ+, and spotlighted discriminatory education policies, prompting lawsuits and bills.

Before coming to Wisconsin Watch, Petrovic worked at Wisconsin Public Radio, Reveal, NPR’s Here & Now and Ideastream, and her work has aired nationally on all of NPR’s flagship news magazines.

Richard A. Webster — Verite News
Richard A. Webster is a senior reporter at Verite News in New Orleans. He has twice before been a member of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network. Founded in 2022, Verite is a Black-led nonprofit news organization with a twofold mission: producing in-depth journalism that serves the whole community and training a new generation of journalists.

He investigated allegations of abuse against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and claims of racial and economic inequities in Louisiana’s Road Home recovery program following Hurricane Katrina. His reporting on the Road Home program prompted the state to drop lawsuits seeking more than $100 million from Katrina victims. Webster previously was a member of The Times-Picayune’s investigative team, reporting on numerous special projects including “The Children of Central City,” an in-depth look at childhood trauma through the lens of a youth football team; “A Fragile State,” a multipart series on Louisiana’s mental health care system; and “Dying at OPP,” which examined the deaths of inmates in Orleans Parish Prison.

ProPublica launched the Local Reporting Network at the beginning of 2018 to boost investigative journalism in local newsrooms. It has since worked with more than 70 news organizations. The network is part of ProPublica’s local initiative, which includes offices in the Midwest, South, Southwest and Northwest, plus an investigative unit in partnership with The Texas Tribune.

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