Published on July 29, 2019 at 8:00 am (updated on July 29, 2019 at 7:38 am)
Just angry: Singers René Pérez Joglar and Bad Bunny lead the celebrations in San Juan to commemorate the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / AP)
Time to go: Ricardo Rosselló (Photograph by Carlos Giusti / AP)
Eleven days That is the time it took to publish almost 900 pages of devastating documents from a Puerto Rican news organization until the forced resignation of a governor.
Between the two events were the furious protests of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans disgusted by the disrespect of the administration and the apparent corruption.
His righteous anger could not be denied or contained.
If journalism is judged by its impact, as it is, this was something powerful.
The fact that the news organization is a small and small non-profit organization, the Center for Investigative Journalism, known as CPI, with only ten full-time reporters and editors, makes what happened even more remarkable. .
The speed of the fall of Ricardo Rosselló can make you wonder: why did the news matter so much there, mobilizing the public in such dramatic and insistent ways?
It might even make you wonder why summaries of reports that reveal the lies, racism and insults of Donald Trump have not done the same in the continental United States.
"Our reports related people's suffering to the administration," CPI executive director Carla Minet told me on the phone last day, a day after Rosselló, with impending political trial, yielded to the inevitable and announced your resignation
"It was like a stew that has been bubbling for a long time, and then it finally evaporated," he said.
The revelations included rude, homophobic and misogynist messages between Rosselló and almost a dozen of his friends, all men.
They showed a surprising shock for people on the island's territory who were affected by a long-term financial crisis, high unemployment and then the ravages of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
In one case, the former chief financial officer was asked about the budget for forensic pathologists.
His answer was a crack over the growing piles of bodies in the morgue.
"Now that we are on the subject, don't we have some corpses to feed our crows?" He wrote, apparently referring to government critics.
As The Washington PostArelis Hernández has reported:
“In the chat, which happened in the Telegram encrypted messaging application, the then chief of Puerto Rico, Christian Sobrino Vega, made a threat, apparently as a joke, to shoot the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz. "You would be doing me a great favor," Rosselló replied.
"The words in the chat went directly to the heart of the people," Minet told me. And people felt, he said, "that this was finally enough."
But CPI did not just post chat messages, even more atrocious than many of them. There were also research stories that revealed "the corruption behind the conversation": the ways in which the Rosselló administration, Minet said, was misusing his public role to benefit his private interests.
Although these 11 days have attracted national and international attention from CPI, even the superstar of the Lin-Manuel Miranda theater tweeted in her support, the nonprofit has been doing an important job for more than a decade.
"Their specialty, the recovery of hidden documents, has made them a valuable source of civic information, for example, by reporting the true number of deaths caused by the hurricane," wrote Ruth McCambridge, editor in chief of Quarterly nonprofit.
CPI, along with CNN, successfully sued the Puerto Rican government in 2018 after it refused to disclose a detailed report of the deaths following Maria.
Finally, and partly as a result of studies from universities and other news organizations, the original Government count of 16, then 64, was reviewed in thousands. (Trump denied the vastly higher numbers, floating a false theory about how they were invented to make him look bad for not providing more help.)
As a nonprofit organization, CPI depends on donations, even from its Puerto Rican readers, and appreciates its independence.
"We have no links with any economic or political group, and that makes a big difference," Minet told me. "It's amazing how much people value that." He added that CPI methods are "rigorous and old", there is no hurry to publish until the story is reviewed and complete.
"They offered us parts of the chat, but we wanted to make sure nothing was out of context," he said, "so we strive to get the full chat." Your confidential source finally complied.
In recent weeks, Julie K. Brown's research firepower in the Miami Herald He has been recognized as alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was arrested.
His work, and that of other news organizations that report on Epstein's apparent role as a provider of young women and girls to his high-profile friends, is vital, and was recognized by a federal prosecutor announcing Epstein's arrest early of this month.
But it took years.
Likewise, the investigation reports on Trump's candidacy and administration are more of a slow process, although it has had results: for example, in the resignation of Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, now a criminal; and in the March protests of Women around the world on January 21, 2017, a day after Trump’s inauguration.
"I think journalism generally has its greatest impact when a powerful story is combined with an auspicious moment," said Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, the leading nonprofit organization that investigates and reports research. (CPI has been called the ProPublica of Puerto Rico).
Stories about sexual harassment came and went without a big impact, Tofel noted, until the turning point finally came, which triggered the #MeToo movement that shook the world.
In Puerto Rico, the fire storm could have lasted only 11 days. But kindling had been placed a long time.
And investigative journalism came to light the game.
• Margaret Sullivan is The Washington PostS media columnist. Previously, she was The New York Times public editor, and the chief editor of The buffalo newshis hometown newspaper
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