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Jim Heaney: Editor and Executive Director, Investigative Post

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Jim Heaney: Editor and executive director, Investigative Post

Our cover story this week was written by Jim Heaney, who left the Buffalo News after 25 years to start a new venture: Investigative Post ( Heaney, a former Pulitzer Prize finalist, has recruited Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Tom Toles and St. Bonaventure journalism school dean Lee Coppola to serve on his board of directors.

What’s Investigative Post?

A new nonprofit investigative reporting center focused on issues of importance to Buffalo and Western New York. In addition to producing great journalism, we want to train and nurture a new generation of muckraking reporters. Think Nader’s Raiders with laptops.

You had a good gig at the Buffalo News. Why did you make the move?

I’ve had these ideas rattling around in my brain for years that I wanted to put into play. I wanted to build a news operation that combines very high standards with smart use of technology and state-of-the-art reporting and story-telling techniques. I’m also intrigued with the prospect of collaborating with the academic community—there’s a lot of expertise and brainpower out there that the media doesn’t tap into much.

Did you follow models in other cities?

More or less. About 50 centers have been started around the country, most in the past five years in response to cutbacks in newsroom staffs. The model stresses collaborations with media outlets and journalism schools. In addition to posting content daily on our website,, we’ll be sharing select stories with the Buffalo News, WBFO, and Artvoice. I expect to announce a partnership with a TV station shortly. Our university partners include St. Bonaventure, UB, and Medaille College.

What do you plan on covering?

What ails us as a community. Government and politics. The economy and what passes for economic development. The environment. Poverty. And whatever else catches our eye. Suffice to say, we won’t lack for subject matter.

What will be the keys to success?

Producing great journalism and raising the money to pay for it.

on-line bonus questions: What’s the business model?

Starting out, similar to public broadcasting. Support from foundations and donors in a position to write big checks is going to be important. We’ve also launched a membership drive aimed at the “99 percent.” The message to all of the above is “Help us build a news organization that will be a community asset.” Over time, we’ll need to generate earned income through sale of our editorial content, online advertising, events we host, and perhaps commercial research and data services.

What do you hope this enterprise will look like in five years?

The biggest investigative reporting operation between New York City and Chicago, with a presence throughout upstate New York. Ambitious, but doable.

What do you think journalism will look like in 10 years?

More fragmented. More digital. For both better and worse.

What’s the problem with journalism these days?

The business model is collapsing and it’s lead to big staff cutbacks in most newsrooms and a resulting decline in quality. It’s not just newspapers, but TV and radio, as well. The byproduct is too much noise, not enough depth. There’s also a lack of institutional courage to tell the stories that need to be told and spend the money necessary to produce them. That said, there are pockets of excellence.

You’re a big hockey guy, right?

Yes, and I have the broken bones to prove it. Let’s see, three broken legs, an arm, a foot, a collarbone and a couple of ribs. My wife finally retired me in the emergency room five years ago. She had a point.

What would you do at the trade deadline?

Move some of the deadwood from the team’s core. And lower beer prices.

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