Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Government and media responsibility in the digital age

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)

6 comments:

Palmer said...

Are you not someone funding the media? Did you give to The Progressive?

Emily said...

I'm sorry, when I said "people funding the media" in this case I meant the corporations. specifically. Man you are nitpicky sometimes, you know that?

Palmer said...

Sorry Emily. I wasn't trying to be nitpicky. Instead I was trying to determine if you were expecting others to pony up all the $$ so you can have free news or whether you were involved in funding reporting in any way.

Everyone quotes the "information wants to be free" part but they usually ignore the other bit of that quote: "information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable".

Emily said...

Apologies then, I misread you. And yes, I do whatever I can to help fund good media. I actually do make a point to pay for content from organizations whose content I appreciate. And I think we all need to make a habit of doing that, too. Which isn't to say I don't think "free" has its place, too. Who doesn't like free? But those of us who can pony up, should. That includes everyone from you and me to big corporate.

George H. said...

Agree and double-agree. The MJS continuing coverage of abuse of the child-care system has been above and beyond, with excellent use of multi-media, good hard reporting, excellent writing and packaging. And it has not been just on this one person, but on numerous persons who have worked the child-care subsidy system for lots of money. Good reporting should be supported, recognized and encouraged. And it should also be cited by those in power to make changes for the better. Every person in Milwaukee who does not job the system should thank the MJS for rooting out the ones who do.
(And thanks, Emily, for continued attribution and credit, you are a rarity.)

Shane said...

Emily says "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!"

Most people arent opposed to helping those that truly need it. We just want to make sure the $ is well spent and accounted for. As someone that has worked in social services most of my career I can attest to the waste/fraud thats out there and also the amount of people that take advantage of the system.

Emily also said "But there are plenty--too many, frankly--of people who actually need assistance in getting back on their feet."


Very common statement.

Again i have no issue with helping people get back on their feet if thats the goal. But considering the low turnover in most programs shows me that either our programs arent working as hoped or once people get help they use it as a crutch vs. a springboard.

The Lost Albatross