Clear It with Sidney | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Clear It with Sidney

Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Wins February Sidney for Exposing No-Jail Jailers

Photo credit: 

Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons.

R.G. Dunlop and Jacob Ryan of Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting win the February Sidney Award for exposing an outrageous system of patronage with their story “Only in Kentucky: Jailers Without Jails.”

Kentucky has 41 counties with no county jail, but the state constitution requires all counties to have an elected county jailer. So, 41 county jailers get paid, often hansomely, to do little or nothing. The highest earner among them pulls down $69,000 a year, but she has no office, no schedule, and no official duties of any kind.

Read our Backstory interview with R.G. Dunlop about the reporting that went into this remarkable story and the impact that the coverage is having on Kentucky politics. 

Sidney’s Picks: Subway DNA

Photo credit: 

Micah Baldwin, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Credible fear: Tens of thousands of families flee violence in Central America, languish in U.S. detention.
  • Salute a sanitation worker: Only .2% of the DNA in the New York City subway is human.
  • On Tuesday, Feb 10, join director Marc Levin for a sneak preview of his new documentary, Freeway: Crack in The System, at the IFC Center in New York.

Sidney-Winning Story Goes on to Win National Magazine Award

Amanda Hess took home a 2015 National Magazine Award last night for “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on The Internet,” a deeply personal and deeply-reported account of the threats that female journalists encounter online and the powerlessness of law enforcement to stop them.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation recognized Hess’s piece with the October 2014 Sidney Award. Here’s our Backstory interview with Hess about the making of her award-winning story. 

The Sidneys have been a bellweather for National Magazine Awards before. Steve Brill won a March 2013 Sidney Award for “Bitter Pill,” which went on to win a National Magazine Award in 2014. 

Sidney’s Picks: The Scandal of the Heroin Treatment Industry

The Best of the Week’s News

  • “Almost every day, I slip food to one of my students,” a Colorado teacher writes.

"Do I Fear Sleep? Yeah..."

Photo credit: 

Sprogz, Creative Commons.

In “Midnight Three & Six,” a New York Times Op/Doc short film, Joe Callander brings us an intimate look at a family’s 24/7 struggle to keep a pre-teen with volatile Type 1 diabetes alive. Grace has already lost four friends her age to this rare and deadly variant of diabetes. 

Grace’s blood sugar is so unstable that her parents sometimes have to measure it every hour, or even every fifteen minutes. If her sugar drops too low, she will go into convulsions and possibly a coma. Typically, Grace’s mom and dad take turns checking her blood sugar through the night, at midnight, three, and six am. Hence the title of the documentary. Her mom lives in fear that her daughter will die in her sleep if she sleeps through her alarm. 


Journalist Who Reported on Argentine Prosecutor's Death Flees Country

Photo credit: 

Casa Rosada, official workplace of the president of Argentina, by Sliff, Creative Commons.

A journalist who investigated the death of a prosecutor investigating a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center has fled the country for Israel. The journalist, Damián Pachter, says that he was being persued by Argentine intelligence agents and feared for his safety.

The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead the night before he was scheduled to testify about the the bombing, which he alleged was perpetrated by Hezbollah and covered up by the Argentinian government. Nisman alleged that the Argentina colluded with Iran to cover up the bombing as part of a deal in which Iran would supply oil to Argentina.

Bizarrely, the twitter feed of the Argentine Presidential Palace (@CasaRosadaAR) published purported details of Pachter’s flight to Israel.

Jorge Capitanich, Argentina’s cabinet chief, defended the publication of Mr. Pachter’s movements on the Twitter account of the presidential palace. At a news conference on Monday morning, he said, “If a journalist says that he feels threatened, it’s important to publish his whereabouts.” [NYT]

The government answered Pachter’s coverage with an even more bizarre counter-conspiracy theory:

In a letter this week, [President] Kirchner also wrote that Mr. Nisman had, unknowingly, been fed false information by Mr. Stiusso to sully the government as part of a plot that would end with his death. “The true operation against the government was the death of the prosecutor after accusing the president,” she wrote. [NYT]

So, the government is saying that there was plot to murder the prosecutor and make it look like a suicide, but the government didn’t do it. They say the government was framed by an ousted former spy who wanted to make the administration look bad.

By tweeting a journalist’s flight details, the Kirchner administration is making itself look bad. 

Sidney’s Picks: Doc Who Treats the Poor from His Car Fights to Save His Medical License

The Best of the Week’s News

  • A federal judge permanently blocks Arizona’s attempt to ban driver’s licenses for people who were brought to the U.S. as undocumented children.

The Movement to Put a Church in Every Public School

Photo credit: 

Moyan_Brenn, Creative Commons.

Katherine Stewart has a new piece in the Nation about the growing evangelical movement to colonize the public school system.

Groups like the Venue Church are setting up shop in public school buildings on weekends. In some places, including New York City, churches don’t even have to pay rent to use public school facilities. Once ensconsced in a public school, these churches are keen to form “partnerships” with the institution to gain access to students and parents. 

“If you are looking to maximize missional money,” Venue suggests on its website, “the school campus is where you will yield the highest return on your investment.”

The story was reported with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Cuomo Pledges to Raise Minimum Wage

Photo credit: 

Diana Robinson, Creative Commons.

On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came out in favor of a two-tiered minimum wage hike for New York State and New York City, respectively:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he is proposing the creation of a two-tiered minimum wage for New York, setting the hourly rates at $10.50 for New York state and $11.50 for New York City by the end of 2016. The state’s current minimum wage is $8.75, after the state legislature in 2013 passed a graduated increase to $9 by the end of 2015. [WSJ]

Cuomo’s proposal is a far cry from the hike to $15/hr that low-wage workers and their allies have been demanding in a nationwide series of strikes, but even the modest increase that Cuomo is proposing would be a step in the right direction. 

Sidney’s Picks: Cops Caught Using Mugshots of Black Suspects for Target Practice

The Best of the Week’s News

  • The Holy Grail: in search of an organizing model to unite low-wage workers.
  • How the White House kills national security stories.