Leveraging Pro Talent for Better Journalistic Digging

One of the fun events at the Knight News Challenge conference at MIT this week has been spur-of-the-moment ideas for new projects, products and services. The project ideas are listed here — and the list is proof that good ideas are in surplus these days.

Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, and I came up with the following proposal:

Circuit Rider Project: Community accountability via circuit-riding forensic accountant.

Using Arizona and metropolitan Phoenix as a test bed and template, we will hire a forensic accountant. (Forensic accounting is to accounting as investigative journalism is to journalism.) He or she will dig into state and regional governmental spending, with the help of crowd-sourced tips from citizens and bureaucrats, to spot any malfeasance (and to prevent it by virtue of watchdog deterrent effect).

We will bring this person together with journalists and potential media partners — while making findings open to all — to promote coverage that members of the community will see and act on. This fills a growing gap in Arizona and, if this test works as envisioned, in other states, metro areas and non-metro regions.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and Bill’s support means that we’re a lot more likely to try it. I’ll let you know if and how we proceed.