Investigative Editing Corps got its start in 2017 as a pilot project of the Jim Bettinger News Innovation Fund of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University.

The support allowed Rose Ciotta, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative editor, to test the idea of independent editors helping local news organizations to do watchdog reporting in two newsrooms: The Olean Times Herald in rural New York State and the Beaver County Times in western Pennsylvania.  Both newsrooms did projects they wouldn’t have done without the extra help.

Working with the journalists at the Olean Times Herald: (l to r) Jim Eckstrom, executive editor; Rose Ciotta; Danielle Gamble, city editor; Tom Dinki, reporter; Bob Clark, reporter

In both cases, the journalists received kudos from readers for their in-depth reporting on subjects the community cared about and they were recognized by their peers.

In Olean, Danielle Gamble and Bob Clark won an investigative reporting award for small newsrooms in the New York State Associated Press Association Awards for their project “Olean’s Weak Anti Blight Plan Puts Stress on Rental Housing” which exposed deplorable rental housing conditions in this small city. The award, for work published in 2017, was a first for the small daily in rural New York State.

Rose Ciotta joins Olean Times Herald reporters Danielle Gamble (center) and Bob Clark (right) on June 2, 2018, as they receive an award for investigative reporting from the New York State Associated Press Association in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The next year, Tom Dinki and Danielle Gamble won New York State Associated Press investigative, enterprise reporting and design awards for 2018 for the four-part series on the failures of rural school districts in “The state of rural New York schools: Left Behind” .

The Bettinger award also gave Ciotta the opportunity to work with The Beaver County Times in Beaver, Pa. A team of reporters, video/photo, data journalists produced a four-part series, State of Emergency, on the impact of the opioid crisis in this small community of 4,500, which has had the highest rate of fentanyl overdose death in Pennsylvania. Soon after the January 2018 report, the state’s governor declared a statewide opioid disaster emergency.

The staff received 44 awards, including three national titles, for work in 2017, a year when the family-owned news organization was sold to GateHouse Media and the paper participated in the Poynter Institute’s Local News Innovation Program and Investigative Editing Corps.