writing for print and web

Capitol Hill controversy puts EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in national spotlight

In-depth daily article explaining the connection between a national controversy and a state-run business plan. / 1173 words / VTDigger.org

Controversy on Capitol Hill this week shined a national spotlight on one of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s signature economic development initiatives — a program that plays a key role in Vermont’s business strategy.

Monday, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General revealed to a lawmaker an ongoing investigation into Alejandro Mayorkas. The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the No. 2 position at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mayorkas had been accused of mismanaging the federal Immigrant Investor Program, also called “EB-5” for the type of visa it affords. Leahy is in the process of pushing Congress to make EB-5 permanent after 20 years in a pilot stage. The program — until Monday — had remained fairly obscure by national standards, despite a recent spike in use. But in Vermont, EB-5 plays a prominent role.

The art, science and mystery of nonprofit news assessment

by Charles Lewis and Hilary Niles / grant-funded research on measuring the impact of nonprofit journalism / Investigative Reporting Workshop

A review of recent, relevant literature and informal conversations with experts in the field reveal growing ambitions toward the goal of developing a common framework for assessing journalism’s impact, yet few definitive conclusions about how exactly to reach that framework. This is especially the case when journalism’s “impact” is defined by its ultimate social outcomes — not merely the familiar metrics of audience reach and website traffic.

This grant-funded research explores the realm of nonprofit journalism assessment, borrowing principles from philanthropic and other media circles. The report gained attention from such media watchers as The Poynter Institute, Nieman Journalism Lab and the American Press Institute.

Kurt Schaefer wins re-election to 19th District Missouri Senate seat

No Republican representing Columbia and Boone County has ever been re-elected to the Missouri Senate for a second term. Until now.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, defeated his challenger from the House, two-term state Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, by a 15.8 percent margin Tuesday.

“On an evening when Missourians have shown they are unbound by party, they have told us one thing unmistakably. They want us to pull together. And in my second term, I will be in the harness with the great Boone County delegation to make sure we get the things done we need to get done.”

Despite the wins for Schaefer and his new counterpart in the 44th District Missouri House seat, Republican Caleb Rowden, the mood was subdued as news came in that President Barack Obama had been re-elected.

988 words / The Columbia Missourian

Determined Columbia residents give and receive rides to polling places

Karin Davis rolled into Oak Towers on Tuesday morning after getting a ride from Columbia Paratransit to the polling location.

“I’m in a wheelchair, and if I can vote, everybody else damn well can, too,” she said.

The 65-year-old is not shy with her opinions — and she is grateful for the ride.

Davis has relied on Columbia Paratransit for most of her transportation needs for about five years. She is one of 30 or more people who, by mid-Tuesday afternoon, had received help getting to the polls.

789 words / The Columbia Missourian

Schaefer brings tenacity, ambition to second state Senate campaign

Kurt Schaefer doesn’t mind giving advice, but he’d rather be the one making decisions.

The incumbent 19th District senator learned this about himself after advising countless legislators and policy makers as a prosecutor in the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

“After a while, it could get frustrating to see them not taking our advice, especially on policy issues,” Schaefer said. In 2007, he decided to fix that. He’d try to make the laws himself.

Schaefer, a Republican, ran for state Senate in 2008 and beat the incumbent Democrat, Chuck Graham, whose favorability sank after his drunken driving arrest the previous October.

Now Schaefer, who has become chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is running for re-election against Democrat Mary Still, a two-term 25th District representative in the Missouri House.

It is rare for a Republican to represent the Senate district that includes Columbia, which politically leans to the left. Schaefer, who won by fewer than 400 votes in 2008, was the first Republican to take the district since at least 1979. If he wins in November, it would be the first time a Republican would serve two terms in the 19th District seat, he said.

1962 words / The Columbia Missourian

Fearlessness drives Mary Still’s campaign for 19th District Senate seat

Mary Still is not afraid to lose.

“If I were afraid to lose, I would not have run in this race,” Still said last week.

The two-term 25th District state representative from Columbia opens the door of her paned-glass sunroom to let in a little stormy afternoon breeze. Still, a Democrat, is well aware of the odds she faces in her bid to unseat Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, in the 19th District.

Schaefer’s campaign finance war chest outweighs Still’s by a factor of almost 4 to 1. As one of 34 senators, his name recognition also outpaces that of Still, who is one of 163 representatives of the Missouri House. And her opponent’s chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful roles in the General Assembly, makes him all the more formidable.

But Still is not easily intimidated. And she is determined to have a Democrat represent Columbia in the Missouri Senate.

“I can better reflect the values of this community,” she said in a soft Arkansas drawl.

Campaign staffers, friends and volunteers are stationed in her spacious, light-filled kitchen. They work with their laptops here, or from desks at Still’s memorabilia-strewn campaign headquarters on Old Route 63 or walking door-to-door in neighborhoods around Columbia and Boone and Cooper counties.

This is Still’s third campaign for a seat in the legislature, and it’s clear this isn’t her first rodeo.

2085 words / The Columbia Missourian

State Senate candidates engage in spirited debate

Candidates for one of the state’s most-watched Senate races square off in a forum hosted at the University of Missouri. This article was notable in the publication’s website analytics for the amount of time people were spending on the page — four minutes, on average, and up to seven minutes for viewers from a particular referring website.

752 words / The Columbia Missourian