Projects on rental housing and education brought the Olean Times Herald in Olean, N.Y. its first investigative awards from the New York State Associate Press for 2017 and 2018.
Both projects by Herald staffers Danielle Gamble, Bob Clark and Tom Dinki were edited by Rose Ciotta as pilot projects of Investigative Editing Corps. The pilots were made possible by the support of the Jim Bettinger Innovation Fund of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University.
The 2017 project, “Olean’s Weak Anti-Blight Plan Puts Stress on Rental Housing,” showed how the city’s failure to regulate rental housing had resulted in blight conditions. The two-day series was written and reported by Danielle Gamble and Bob Clark. The project was honored with an investigative reporting award.
The 2018 project, “The State of New York Rural Schools: Left Behind,” revealed how declining enrollment and a shrinking tax base had left rural school districts with limited academic programs while politics and neglect blocked innovative solutions like regional high schools. The three-part series was written and reported by Tom Dinki.
The awards, the first for the small daily, drew reader support in social media. As one reader wrote: “I’ve written columns here and there about the woes facing rural schools in New York. But my columns can’t come close to touching the excellent reporting undertaken by @OTHNews’s @TomDinki for his multi-part series. Exceptional journalism.” Another wrote: “This is good reporting. Thanks for the share.”