CASPER —The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation has awarded WyoFile $50,000 to expand its online news site, share stories with other Wyoming news outlets and increase its collaborative reporting projects.
The grant to Wyoming’s leading nonprofit, public interest news service was among 21 nationwide totaling $1.5 million awarded in February by the Oklahoma-based foundation. Founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation’s mission is to invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information.
“We are delighted and grateful to receive such a generous grant that will allow us to expand our efforts at a time when newsrooms across Wyoming face financial strains and other challenges in providing in-depth coverage of important Wyoming issues,” said WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer.
Last month, WyoFile released its first story in a series of planned collaborative reporting projects — a look at the little-known risks posed by the use of hydrofluoric acid. The highly toxic chemical is used in oil refineries in Cheyenne and Newcastle, as well as dozens of other facilities around the country.
Fuel Factories: Communities at Risk, by Bleizeffer, was reprinted by the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and included as part of team coverage of safety hazards at the nation’s aging refineries by ABC News and the non-profit Center for Public Integrity.
WyoFile is working with other members of the national Investigative News Network, examining how Wyoming compares to the rest of the country in mental health care spending and delivery of services.
The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation grant follows a $122,000 Knight Foundation Community Information Challenge grant awarded for 2010-2012 that helped enable WyoFile to hire Bleizeffer and managing editor Ruffin Prevost.
Since joining WyoFile in November, Bleizeffer and Prevost have increased WyoFile’s weekly editorial output. They have covered issues ranging from the financial challenges facing community ski areas to how growing oil exploration in southeastern Wyoming is diverting water from crops to drilling.
WyoFile is increasing its use of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to interact more with readers, while at the same time adopting new, specialized web tools like DocumentCloud to better present public information.
“We have received hundreds of photographs submitted by many great pro and amateur Wyoming photographers in response to the launch of our new WyoFile Flickr group,” Prevost said.
“Our goal is to highlight local photographers’ images of Wyoming people, places and wildlife. We plan to regularly showcase the best shots on our home page and in our stories,” he said.
WyoFile is the first Wyoming newsroom to present public documents using the groundbreaking DocumentCloud open source publishing platform. Leading news organizations from around the country — including The New York Times, 60 Minutes and ProPublica — are using DocumentCloud to revolutionize how people access public documents.
“The point of all of these new developments is to better inform Wyoming readers with in-depth, investigative reporting on Wyoming people, places and policy,” Prevost said. “We hope to continue expanding our efforts toward that goal for the rest of 2011 and beyond.”
WyoFile is an associate member of the Wyoming Press Association, and offers its stories, columns and photographs free to all Wyoming media. WyoFile content has been republished recently by several outlets, including: The Gillette News-Record, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, The Billings Gazette, The Powell Tribune, Jackson Hole Weekly, Jackson Hole News & Guide, the Torrington Telegram, the Little Chicago Review, NewWest.net and High Country News.