There are two kinds of journalists in the world, and really only two. There are the people who go out and get the stories, and there are the people who talk about them.
The stories here have been gone out and gotten. They are original. Many were in plain sight, but no one else saw them. Others were pulled from bureaucracies and companies determined that they not come to light. Many navigated PR or legal minefields.
The purpose of this site is to give news professionals and others a quick overview of my work over two decades of reporting and writing. It is intended to allow the work to speak for itself, but permit me nonetheless a quick introduction.
I joke that the stories here run the gamut from public corruption to white-collar crime, but in fact the work ranges fairly widely. The heart of the site is the "portfolio" section, which displays scans of stories (in reverse chronological order, roughly) with an excerpt and occasionally, a link to the full text. Readers will find vigilant coverage of high-profile beats, including Ground Zero reconstruction and Eliot Spitzer's insurance probes, along with scoops, features and takeouts on subjects as diverse as rock climbing and real estate, insurance and contracting. I recommend "Edifice Complex" and "Take and Give" under WSJ; "Rhode Island Life" and "Empire" under Projo; "AIG" under Washington Post; "An FOB and the MOB" under The Washington Monthly. And, don't skip the Providence organized-crime section.
Generally, the stories explore the meeting point of government, business and the law and the behavior of people caught there. The goal of these investigative narratives is to combine original reporting with story-telling elements of character, scene and detail to create impact. And in fact I've had some luck. The stories on this site have led to criminal indictments of a former governor, a police commander and four sergeants and contributed to those of a sitting state Supreme Court chief justice and a former state House speaker. A series on eminent-domain abuse, meanwhile, has been credited in Congressional testimony and elsewhere with sparking the current national debate on the topic. One series led to a Pulitzer Prize.
I'm a fulltime media critic now. I run “The Audit,” the business-press section for the Columbia Journalism Review. With a small staff and contributions from well-known business journalists and thinkers, we critique the business media in a variety of forms, from a daily blog to magazine-length projects, with an eye toward coverage of Wall Street and the financial crisis. Among the questions we ask are, What was the financial press's role in the great crash; why was it, and consequently the public, caught so unawares; and how can a more relevant and credible press emerge from this social and economic debacle? A signature project, headlined “Power Problem,” examined thousands of articles of nine major business press outlets from 2000 to mid-2007, the period when the press could have but did not explore the dangerous practices of big lenders and their Wall Street backers. Why not?
Well for starters, the business press grew too close intellectually to the institutions it covered, became overly preoccupied with what insiders cared about, and placed a high premium on gaining access to power and a low one holding it accountable. It placed too much emphasis on being first by a few hours and not enough on telling stories that otherwise would never be known. In short, mainstream financial journalism drifted from its own investigative traditions.
That's no good. For one thing, readers are deprived of the best stories.
The good story, I believe, is investigative, at least in the sense that it looks behind an idealized façade to reveal the reality beneath. Tension and surprise result from the gap between the purported reality – the aura projected by, say, a judge's robes or a corporate PR operation – and reality itself – the chief justice skimming a slush fund or an executive diverting assets to companies he controls while his subordinate chest-bumps an uncooperative director.
Journalism's best and least-understood asset is that it's fun. It's fun because the news is fun, and the news is fun because the gap between appearance and reality – with all its tension and surprise – is everywhere. Enjoy the site.