Part of our mission at the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting is to bring transparency to our public officials through accountability reporting.

At times, it can be a daunting task to collect, analyze and make sense of the data and public records that are made available to Arizona’s residents. Not only does this take time and resources to accomplish, it also costs a lot of money.

Thanks to a $5,000 grant from Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), made available from a $50,000 donation to IRE from Google Ideas, AZCIR is working to build a Web-based application to do background checks on Arizona’s elected officials.

The application will be a crowd-sourced and crowd-funded technology that creates profiles of public officials. It will include information ranging from financial holdings to education and criminal records to possible conflicts of interest in public policy.

AZCIR’s Web application¬ will allow members of the public to contribute tips and information as well as donations to fund the data reporting. Elected officials will be placed in a queue by which monetary donations will determine who moves up the list to be investigated. The money generated will serve as a funding source for AZCIR reporters to collect data and do the investigations.

AZCIR was one of eight newsrooms to receive funding from IRE’s Data Journalism Fund. The other newsrooms range from investigative nonprofits in California to investigative centers in Spain and the United Kingdom. Here’s a list of the eight newsrooms and what they’re doing with the funds:

  • Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting will build a public web application to provide background checks for political candidates.
  • Centre for Investigative Reporting (UK) will investigate industrial facilities and emissions in Europe.
  • The Chicago Reporter will assess how effectively the Chicago Housing Authority has distributed the Section 8 program’s funds.
  • El Pais (Spain) will implement a data journalism training program that will focus on the best processes and tools necessary for collecting, scraping, cleaning, analyzing and visualizing data in anticipation of increased transparency in Spain.
  • Investigative Newsource will investigate federal, state, and local issues that could severely affect the disabled’s potential for employment.
  • InvestigateWest will be mapping transportation corridors and air quality.
  • Tulsa World will investigate improper mortgage servicing practices in Oklahoma.
  • WAVE-Louisville will investigate the role of race in the justice system.

For now, we’re starting the development process to build the application. As we move forward, we want your help too.

Are there public officials that you think need to be investigated first? How about records you might want to share? What kind of information do you want us to collect?

Let us know. We’re here to work for and with you. Send us an email or give us a call at 602.295.0064.