Once in a while, even in the age of print media decline, a piece of cold, hard reporting can still jump out and grab your attention.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been running investigative pieces since January about a woman in Wisconsin who has allegedly been scamming the state out of millions of dollars in child care subsidies for the past several years. The work has been so comprehensive, and so damning of how the state has handled the case, that once the paper said it was about to publish this comprehensive article, the woman in question appeared to confess her crimes and the state finally took serious action against her.
It's a frustrating read, but not because of the reporting. Happily, that's proved to be a pretty rock solid example of what good journalism can and should be: in-depth, hard-hitting, dogged, and informative. It's much raking at its finest.
What's frustrating is twofold. First, you have the state appearing to massively bungle what should have been a pretty easy-to-spot and punish case of serious fraud. We're talking about millions of dollars in funding meant to go toward supporting low-income families trying to support their children. Instead, it appears to have ended up funding a 6-bedroom mansion with an indoor swimming pool and basketball court.
Secondly, there's the bad name this woman--Latasha Jackson--is giving to honest child care providers and those in real need of public assistance in Wisconsin. It's this type of case that only lends fuel to the fires of those people who adamantly oppose any kinds of aid programs for the less well heeled among us. They scowl and point and say "See! Welfare Queens sponging off the system!" But there are plenty--too many, frankly--of people who actually need assistance in getting back on their feet.
I want to give great big kudos to the MJS and the reporters who've been working on this story so diligently. They should get much of the credit for finally kicking the state in the pants and getting them to follow up on the matter, hopefully retrieving the money that's been defrauded of tax payers and making sure this woman never gets another dime from the state.
Now we need to make sure the people funding our media realize what a great resource they have in experienced, on-the-ground local reporters, and start finding other ways to save money that don't involve sacking them all.
(h/t The Sconz)