Why I’m running for re-election

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Why vote for me: “I’ve been a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors for more than 10 years. I believe in IRE’s mission, which is to promote investigative reporting and train the next generation of journalists. I have not only made personal financial contributions to IRE, but have also volunteered my time to help coordinate and participate at workshops and conferences. I have also helped raise money to ensure that IRE continues its mission to provide investigative training to journalists around the world.

“I’m running for reelection because I would like to continue my work as an ambassador for IRE and as a voice for all journalists, including those in small newsrooms. During the past year, I have represented IRE in Puerto Rico and Venezuela and throughout the nation. I pay my own way to these events as well as to IRE board meetings and conferences. We need investigative journalism more than ever, but we also need to make sure that IRE is a sustainable organization capable of serving future generations.

“As a news entrepreneur who co-founded a nonprofit organization in Florida, I know too well about sustainability challenges. Building and growing a new organization is a rewarding and demanding experience. Since Florida Center for Investigative Reporting launched in September 2010, the organization has produced hard-hitting investigative reporting that has won 12 national, regional and state awards.

“I believe that the only way investigative journalism can thrive and evolve in our fast-changing media ecosystem is to engage young journalists. As an organization, IRE must continue to educate and train young people to ensure that investigative journalism survives and thrives. I’m doing my part not only by mentoring young journalists at IRE’s annual conferences, but also by offering internships to young journalists at FCIR.

“I care about IRE and its future. I hope you will consider me for your vote.”

Mc Nelly Torres is the co-founder and associate director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, the first bilingual investigative nonprofit in the Sunshine State. Previously, Torres was the Stimulus Team Leader for EdMoney.org, a project of the Education Writers Association.  She has also collaborated with journalists in Puerto Rico on investigations. Her journalism has won state, regional and national awards, including from the Education Writers Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Torres has worked at five daily newspapers across the United States. She was a consumer writer for the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, where her reporting led to the conviction of a businessman with a history of defrauding customers, a state probe of a foreclosure-rescue firm and changes in state laws governing the foreclosure-rescue industry.

At the San Antonio Express-News in Texas, Torres covered four politically contentious school districts and uncovered corruption that led to the conviction of a school building architect. At the Morning News in South Carolina, Torres won local and state awards for her investigative work on the state’s hog-farm permit-filing process.

A native of Puerto Rico, Torres has lived around the world while following a military husband who retired in 2005.

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Colorado State University-Pueblo, formerly known as the University of Southern Colorado. Last year, Torres became the first Latina to be elected to serve on Florida Society of News Editors’ board of directors. 

Investigative Shortfall

American Journalism Review magazine published a series of stories in September exploring the decline of investigative journalism around the country. I was surprised when I discovered that the writer decided to lead with me on the main story when I had been part of another article, The Withering Watchdog, a PBS series published last year.

Yet, I commend American Journal Review for spending the time and ink to show how investigative journalism has been affected in recent years.

The article, by Mary Walton, also highlights the explosion of investigative nonprofit centers across the country. Interestingly, this is something I had devoted a lot of energy during the past 15 months, building the framework of Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

I’m hoping this will be the last article I read about the decline of investigative journalism though. Many of us are working hard to produce investigative journalism that matters. We are committed to our work because we believe that this is the future of investigative journalism. At least for now.

Think about it: if you don’t know what the government is doing with your dollars, or if corruption is running amok, how would you know? It’s the media’s job to keep you informed about these issues and more. But as resources shrink in newsrooms across the country, so has the ability to dedicate time and energy to produce in-depth reporting.

We can’t allow that to happen. I care too much about my community to ignore all these facts and that’s why I’m proud to be part of Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

I hope the future holds more stories about the growing trend of investigative nonprofits around the nation and how these new start-ups are seeking new innovative ways to become sustainable.

But more importantly, how they are using all the technology available to produce stories that cause change and make this world a better place.


The News Entrepreneurial Journey

KDMC alums celebrate grants for investigative startups, offer tips on the entrepreneurial journey

 

Michele McLellan writes: As foundations step into a larger role in supporting investigative news, two journalists who left traditional newsrooms in 2009 are helping start new watchdog organizations in 2010. Laura Frank of The Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network and Mc Nelly Torres of The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting share what they’ve learned so far on the start up road.

 

Congratulations to my colleague, KDMC fellow and dear friend Laura Frank on her latest accomplishment: winning the Knight Community Information Challenge Grant.

Thanks Michele McLellan for the support. Read more here.


Two FCIR Board members to Host Records Seminar in Tampa Bay Area

Two Florida Center for Investigative Reporting board members, the First Amendment Foundation will host two days of events in the Tampa Bay area focused on government openness and citizen access to public records.

FCIR Board Secretary Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, and Board Treasurer Joe Adams, an editorial writer at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, will be in St. Petersburg Sept. 24 for the Sunshine Symposium.

Check the schedule.

Chronicles of a News Entrepreneur Part II

From an Idea to Reality: Producing Investigative Journalism in Florida

Last week, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting became the first nonprofit watchdog in the Sunshine state to receive a $100,000 grant from the Oklahoma City-based Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

FCIR is the nation’s first nonprofit, digital and bilingual investigative journalism organization.

News of our grant circulated rapidly through industry blogs and social media.

But FCIR’s success in fundraising didn’t happen overnight. In fact, we have worked for more than a year to grow FCIR from its seed as a simple idea to a viable journalism organization.

That idea was to meet a growing demand in Florida by producing investigative journalism about one of the nation’s most populous and diverse states. To accomplish this, we’d use the latest technologies and storytelling techniques to connect with diverse audiences throughout the state.

As we brainstormed and consulted with colleagues across the country, we determined that we needed to be different from other nonprofit news organizations.

Why? Because Florida serves as the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean and its communities are among the most complex and diverse. FCIR needed to appreciate that complexity and reflect that diversity. For that reason, we made an early commitment to produce journalism in both English and Spanish.

Among our initial tasks was to recruit a strong, diverse board of directors and an advisory committee. Each of our board members brings a unique skill set, which includes journalism, management, nonprofit administration, digital media and law. As we grow, so will our board and advisory committee.

In addition to an accomplished and committed board of directors, FCIR needed a home. The International Media Center, a nonprofit affiliated with Florida International University’s school of journalism and mass communication, system offered us that.

IMC has an impressive, 20-year history of training journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a perfect marriage. FCIR’s partnership with IMC will allow us to create a substantive internship program that will help train the next generation of investigative reporters in Florida.

Yet FCIR will never lose sight of its mission to be a content provider of investigative journalism. For that reason, FCIR has established a network of ethnic and traditional media outlets that will publish FCIR’s journalism and at times collaborate on projects.

By collaborating with English- and Spanish-language media, FCIR can reach Florida’s diverse audiences on all available platforms– online, broadcast, radio, print and mobile.

What’s more, FCIR’s partnership with the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee will foster collaboration with citizen watchdogs around the state. We believe that engaging the public is crucial to make this new model of investigative journalism successful.

Although FCIR began as a simple idea, it has grown into a public- and foundation-supported nonprofit organization with an important mission — to work in Florida’s public interest by exposing corruption, waste and miscarriages of justice.

Note: FCIR is seeking watchdog projects from Florida journalists to fund this year. Deadline is Sept. 30. Proposals can be e-mail to watchdogfund@fcir.org.

Mc Nelly Torres is the associate director and reporter of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and a board member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization. Torres has been a member of NAHJ since 1998. This blog item was also published by NAHJ Sept. 13.