UPDATE, April 30, 2014: The Chicago Tribune has been added as a regional partner.

Whenever we get our hands on a good dataset here at The Center for Investigative Reporting, we try to identify and encourage opportunities for other journalists and media partners to use the information as well. Our thinking: The more stories that are told about a particular issue – and the more relevant those stories are to the communities most affected by that issue – the greater the chance for change.

CIR’s veterans coverage has been particularly fruitful for collaboration and localization. Dozens of media outlets have used our data on both the Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability claims backlog and its rise in opiate prescriptions to craft stories for their local audiences. And all that coverage has helped produce results. About a year ago, we found that veterans’ wait times were particularly decreasing in areas where media outlets picked up CIR’s reporting on the disability claims backlog.

With new stories, we’re continuing to experiment with our distribution model to find new ways to get the information we uncover to media outlets and individuals across the country and inform a national dialogue.

Most recently, CIR reporter Aaron Glantz’s look at the $200 million in wrongful death payments made by the VA in the decade after 9/11 has been another opportunity for localization. Because the data we obtained included cases at VA hospitals across the country, it was a natural for localization. The interactive map we built makes it easy for anyone to see examples locally.

For this investigation, we created unique versions of the story that included local angles for partners, so they could make the story more relevant for their audiences. Along with our national partner, The Daily Beast, and our regular California media partners, Glantz identified areas where he had specific documents on cases. He inserted local anecdotes into his national narrative for outlets in those regions. Here’s a list of partners that ran our full story:

But we’re not stopping there. We’ve also been working with individual reporters to dig deeper into the data, providing documents and case files that we uncovered for them to use in their own reporting. Below, check out some of the outlets where our reporting and data on the VA’s wrongful death payments has appeared, including media appearances by Glantz. We’ll be updating this list as more outlets use and highlight our work.

Want to use our data or stories? Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions or want to learn more. You can email me at cgoins@cironline.org or give me a call at 510-809-3160, ext. 365.


Cole Goins is the director of community engagement for Reveal, where he cultivates partnerships that blend in-depth journalism and creative public engagement. He has built and supported distribution networks, spearheaded arts-based initiatives such as the Off/Page Project, led social media and audience strategy, and facilitated statewide media collaborations. He was a senior fellow in the 2015 USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowships, mentoring five journalists on approaches to community engagement. Previously, Goins was the engagement editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he led audience development initiatives and multimedia features for award-winning investigative projects. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he worked as music director for WXYC, the student-run radio station. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.