For more than a year, Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown sifted through tens of thousands of pages of FBI and court records, lawsuits and witness depositions. She and visual journalist Emily Michot identified more than 80 victims, conducted hours of interviews, then spent weeks writing and editing.
The Miami Herald spent nearly $100,000 on legal fees, fighting to access files and court documents, many sealed during civil lawsuits.
The result was Perversion of Justice, our investigation into the sweetheart deal given to serial sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. It led to the resignation of the U.S. Secretary of Labor and a new indictment of Epstein. And before he could face his victims, Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell.
That investigation is but one in a string of public service journalism projects published by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald over the past several years — change-making reporting that is challenging, time consuming and expensive.
In the past two years alone, we exposed the harsh treatment of youths — including a dozen deaths — in Florida’s juvenile justice system. We detailed how Miami’s gold trade fuels gangs, guns and profits in Latin America while degrading the rainforest. And in February, we partnered with the nonprofit The Trace to produce a national series that chronicled the lives of each of the nearly 1,200 children killed with a gun in the U.S. in the year following the mass shooting in Parkland.
Each demonstrates the phenomenal power of independent local journalism and our unwavering commitment to deep investigations that have the power to protect lives and change laws.
Yet there is so much more to do. For that, we need your help.
We are excited to announce that the Miami Herald is partnering with the Miami Foundation to launch the Miami Herald Investigative Journalism Fund, which will nearly double the size of our investigative team.
Our goal is to raise $1.5 million for reporting efforts spread over three years, adding two full-time reporters, a data visualization specialist, a videographer and an editor to our existing team.
We will launch the Investigative Journalism Fund when we reach $500,000 in support.
To ensure transparency, the Investigative Journalism Fund is a collaboration between the Miami Herald and The Miami Foundation. Through this partnership, the foundation manages the tax deductible contributions of donors and provides oversight of the distribution of funds. This relationship allows the investigative team at the Miami Herald to focus on the journalism that will expose corruption, identify fraud and seek solutions to problems that affect the quality of life in South Florida.
But this initiative is about much more than fundraising for critical coverage of our community. It is equally about engaging the community itself in new and critical ways. As our investigations roll out, we will be able to make the public stakeholders in ways we’ve never been able to before.
At a time when the local news industry is experiencing unprecedented headwinds, with technology and distribution issues upending our once-stable financial model, we are working aggressively to create a new sustainable business model anchored by reader support.
Community support is central to the future of the free press in our country, and there are signs of hope we can point to.
The Seattle Times pioneered the reporting lab model, beginning with its Education Lab in 2013. It has since launched two more journalism labs funded through philanthropy, as well as a donor supported investigative fund. Our sister paper, The Fresno Bee, launched its own education lab this year, raising enough money to hire four additional journalists.
We continue to uphold the strong journalistic traditions that have long been a hallmark of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. Independent journalism has never been more important. We hope you will support us in this effort by subscribing or making a contribution to the fund.
As always, I welcome your questions and feedback.