A new fund has been established to help make training in computer-assisted reporting more accessible to those who cover predominantly rural communities.
Daniel Gilbert, a reporter with Virginia’s Bristol Herald Courier, attended such a training, and he credits it with enabling him to produce his prize-winning work on the mismanagment of natural-gas royalties in Southwest Virginia. The six-day bootcamp Gilbert attended was run by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). With the training he received, Gilbert built a database that helped him compare 18 months of escrow payments with gas production to find that companies had not made any deposits at all into a significant number of accounts. After his findings were reported, energy companies quickly deposited into escrow more than a million dollars in outstanding royalties and legislation was passed to facilitate the release of royalties in escrow to property owners.
In addition to the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for public service, Gilbert was the recipient of the first Community Journalism prize in the National Journalism Awards sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation. The latter award included a cash prize of $10,000, which Gilbert has donated to the endowment of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. That money, other donations and a match from the state of Kentucky have created the Fund for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting to provide fellowships for rural journalists to participate in computer-assisted reporting workshops like the one Gilbert attended.
For information on how to apply for a fellowship or to make a donation to the Fund, click here.