Environment again in focus as 2022 winds down

Maricela Serna has lived in Galena Park since 1988. Her two oldest children left the city to protect their health and are urging their mother, a cancer survivor, to do the same. (Mark Felix/Public Health Watch and IRW)

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We’re closing out 2022 with stories that have been underway for many months with several different partners and some in new areas of coverage — but all tied to our core mission of accountability.  

Living with proof of pollution

In June, Public Health Watch, the Investigative Reporting Workshop and Grist published a year-long investigation about pollution, power and politics in the Texas petrochemical industry. Our latest story shows what has happened in the six months since, revealing that new, high-tech monitors have found high levels of toxins in the air in Galena Park and Jacinto City, confirming residents’ worst fears. Reported by David Leffler of PHW.

Will infrastructure bill help Alaskans’ water woes?

When Congress passed a massive infrastructure bill in late 2021, money was budgeted not only for roads and bridges but also for water. IRW’s Hayden Godfrey and Audrey Hill focus on the most needy for water infrastructure in a new story from IRW, co-published with Public Health Watch, examining the complexities of bringing improvements to a state where logistics are just one of the difficulties.

Women share complaints of harassment at Juilliard

Former Juilliard composition students share allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct over many years, as reported by Sammy Sussman, formerly of IRW, in a special report for VAN, a classical music magazine, and IRW. An inherent power imbalance, in this case between applicants and/or students and faculty members is the focus of the story, which also was picked up by NPR. Juilliard has hired a law firm to investigate. And of Dec. 18: About 450 people signed an open letter to the Juilliard administration asking the school to address these reports.

Virginia schools reports thousands of harassment, assault claims

IRW published Chris Halsne and Haley Murphy’s deep look at the thousands of reports filed over the last five years alleging sexual assault and harassment in Virginia public schools.

Their research started with a focus on Loudoun County, where then-candidate, and now governor, Glenn Youngkin claimed schools were mishandling such complaints. A grand jury recently issued a blistering report about Loudoun schools and fired its superintendent. WUSA-9 also picked up the story.

Washington Post examines bodybuilding industry

The Washington Post investigative series into the world of bodybuilding — which looks at the exploitation of women, the health risks to athletes and the man who runsthe largest federations — includes reporting by John Sullivan, associate investigations editor at the Post and interim executive editor at IRW. The most recent story, “Rigged: The undoing of America’s premier bodybuilding leagues,” was published this past weekend. Previous stories included research and reporting by American University students Hayden Godfrey, Solène Guarinos, Ron Simon III, Alexandra Rivera, Alexander Fernandez and Lalini Pedris, all in the graduate practicum at the Post.

Shadow diplomats

In case you missed it: A shout-out to former IRW intern Eva Hersowitz, who contributed to a joint ICIJ/ProPublica investigation, via Northwestern’s Medill Investigative Lab, called “Shadow Diplomats,” which examined the honorary consul system, a global corps of quasi-diplomats.

Eva described her role: “After vetting thousands of embassy records, we determined that a significant number of honorary consuls have exploited their professional privileges to facilitate crimes, from money laundering to arms trafficking. For me, the project was a bit of a crash-course in investigative journalism; reporting entailed reading hundreds of pages of court records, interviewing people impacted by the crimes of honorary consuls, and attempting to disentangle the complicated international laws that make this abuse possible.”