Investigate Midwest is pleased to be a member of the Trust Project and to support efforts to increase transparency and trust in journalism.
As part of this commitment, here is a summary of our editorial standards and practices and policies on ethics, diversity, corrections, unnamed sources and fact-checking, plus information about our staffing and funding.
Investigate Midwest is an independent, nonprofit newsroom. Our mission is to serve the public as a watchdog over influential corporations and institutions through in-depth and data-driven investigative journalism.
We were founded in 2009.
We serve an audience interested in U.S. agricultural power and practices. Our online content is free, though we ask people to register on our site. Unregistered users are limited to five articles a month.
Investigate Midwest has federal 501(c)3 status and thus donations made to Investigate Midwest are tax deductible.
We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization. Read our full policy here.
Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions.
We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals, organizations and foundations to help with our general operations, coverage of specific topics, and special projects. Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors. We do not give supporters the rights to assign, review or edit content.
Donations of over $5,000 can be found here.
Investigate Midwest also pursues collaborations with college journalism programs, nonprofit news organizations, citizens, and media outlets, such as ProPublica, a nonprofit news outlet, and Circle of Blue is a news organization focused on climate change and its effects on water.
Investigate Midwest has a reporting staff of six, plus occasional freelancers.
The staff is led by Erin Orr, executive director and newsroom managing editor. She previously was the editor and senior personnel administrator for Lee Enterprises Design Center, managing editor for The Times of Northwest Indiana and The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois, and has held many leadership roles in newsrooms throughout her three-decade career.
Orr has led and edited a number of award-winning news series including an investigation into the decades-long lead contamination in the soil and water of subsidized housing in East Chicago, Indiana, and the causes behind the Hoosier state’s high infant-mortality rates. Orr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investigate Midwest also is supported by a 12-person Board of Directors, which meets regularly.
Brant Houston is president of the board. Professor Houston holds the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches investigative and data journalism at the Department of Journalism in the College of Media.
He also oversees the online newsroom at Illinois, CU-CitizenAccess.org, which serves as a lab for digital innovation and data journalism and produces community and watchdog reporting.
Houston became the chair in 2007 after serving for more than a decade as the executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a 5,000-member organization, and as a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Before joining IRE, he was an award-winning investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 17 years.
Houston is the author of five editions of the textbook, “Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide,” and co-author of the fourth edition, fifth and sixth edition of “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.” He co-founded the Global Investigative Journalism Network, an association of more than 200 nonprofit newsrooms in 82 countries, in 2003 and serves as chair of its board of directors. He also is co-founder and chair emeritus of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a network of more than 300 nonprofit newsrooms in North America. He has taught and spoken about investigative and computer-assisted reporting at newsrooms and universities in 25 countries.
Currently he is working on projects involving the rise of nonprofit journalism newsrooms, digital tools for news-gathering, and new business models for journalism. Houston can be reached at email@example.com.
Investigate Midwest is committed to the highest ethical standards. We adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, adopted in 1996 and endorsed by thousands of journalists around the world. Our Board of Directors also have adopted a conflict of interest policy and a diversity statement.
Our Editorial Independence Policy requires that our news coverage be independent of donors and that all providers of revenue will be publicly identified.
Investigate Midwest is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), the nation’s first consortium of nonprofit investigative news organizations. INN standards require members to disclose information about donors and financial practices, produce nonpartisan investigative journalism, and apply high journalistic standards for accuracy and fairness.
To read our full ethics policy, please click here.
Investigate Midwest aims to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves in its staff and contributors, its editorial choices and priorities.
- Increase the gender, racial, ethnic, age and sexual identification diversity of investigative journalists trained to use data and documents in reporting that holds institutions accountable.
- Increase diversity on our Board of Directors to reflect the gender, racial, ethnic and sexual identification diversity of the communities we serve.
- Give equitable promotion to stories of the gender, racial, ethnic, age and sexual minorities in our communities who are impacted and involved in the issues we report on.
How we are building diversity in our staff:
- We start by gathering data, assessing the diversity in our current workforce related to our audience, the nation and the stories that need to be told.
- We continuously evaluate and identify areas of concern, looking for areas of underrepresentation that need to be addressed, including working to expand the pool of eligible interns and fellows to interview and hire.
- We are expanding the diversity on our board to include BIPOC leaders to help drive diversity efforts that are focused on hiring people of color.
- We are identifying and using tools that help support diversity hiring, including creating connections with and advertising jobs on multiple sites for associations focused on minorities.
- We strive to create social events and opportunities that allow employees from all levels to interact and feel included.
- We are developing individualized professional development plans and providing leadership opportunities to enhance growth and experience to build the next generation of leaders.
Development/promotion – professional development we can offer:
- Access to ongoing mentoring and training opportunities, including external workshops and conferences.
- Brown bag learning opportunities to share and discuss journalism as a profession — best practices, methodologies, etc.
- Best practices resources for diverse story sourcing and tracking progress with each staff member to reinforce the importance of reflecting whole communities and building on those reporting skills.
Diversity Staffing Report
We seek diverse voices in our management and reporting staff.
As of Dec. 1, 2022, here is the breakdown for our staff, contractors and Board of Directors:
81% White, 14% Hispanic, 5% Black
43% female, 57% male
We’ve developed fact-checking protocols (see next section) here at Investigate Midwest. But when an error slips by us, the best thing we can do to keep our readers’ trust is own up to it.
Our policy is to correct stories promptly and openly. If we find an error, we will fix the story and note at the top of the page what has been corrected. Corrections for name misspellings and similar errors appear at the bottom of stories. As of Jan. 1, 2023, we also list all corrections on this page.
If you think we’ve made a mistake in a story, tell us!
On rare occasions, we may determine that a story is so problem-riddled that it must be withdrawn. The Executive Director would make the decision to withdraw the content.
An example of a correction:
The job title of Joe Smith of the State Council on the Environment was corrected to president in an article published on Jan. 1, 2010.
Verification and fact-checking
Accuracy is something we think about all the time. An integral step in our process happens after a reporter finishes a story but before the story reaches our readers’ eyes: fact-checking.
Every report we produce goes through a rigorous review. Reporters are expected to gather, during the normal course of reporting, materials that will be needed for fact-checking. This includes interview notes and e-mail exchanges.
Our editors or another fact-checker typically spend between 2 and 6 hours with the reporter verifying every word and number.
We believe it is time well spent. Because even a minor fact error like a misspelled name could undermine our credibility, we take every measure we can to report with accuracy.
Investigate Midwest’s newsroom guidelines on use of unnamed sources are based on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, approved in 1996, and adopted in full by the Center in 2009; and guidelines publicly shared by The New York Times in July 2016.
Here are our guidelines:
- Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
- Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
- Any use of anonymous sourcing must be specifically approved by a top editor.
- Direct quotes from anonymous sources should be used rarely, and only when such quotes are pivotal to the story.
- At least one editor must know the specific identity of any anonymous source.
Investigate Midwest requires a byline on all original content.
Sometimes several journalists contribute to a single piece of news. The byline on an Investigate Midwest story is generally given to the journalist or journalists who did the bulk of the reporting work on that story.
On rare occasions, we may use a ‘Staff’ byline because the story involved a limited amount of work from many people. In those cases, we provide a link to a senior editor responsible for all editorial content; or a link to a staff directory page, which includes contact details and bios.
We believe that public feedback is essential to our work.
We are committed to providing greater transparency about our journalism and offering regular points of contact and interaction. We believe that news organizations have a responsibility to engage with the public on the values, issues and ideas of the day, and that we have much to gain in return.
We use a variety of programs and techniques toward this end, such as Sunset on the Farm and storytelling events. Our weekly newsletter offers a direct connection to the public as well; you can sign up here.
You can find out more about events by contacting our donations relation manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we do not allow for commenting on stories on the website we invite you to leave one of our Facebook page. Or, you may reach the newsroom directly by contacting by contacting email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a story tip or want to contact a journalist? You can send us a tip securely here.
Investigate Midwest operates https://investigatemidwest.org (the “site”).
Click here to learn about our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal information we receive from users of the sites.
About the Trust Project
The Trust Project is a global consortium of news organizations that implement standards of transparency, called Trust Indicators, to help audiences evaluate the quality, integrity and reliability of journalism. Investigate Midwest joined The Trust Project in 2023.