KCUR Is Ramping Up Investigative Reporting With Support Of New Grant And Collaboration

Jan 16, 2018

After a long and torturous wait, a Kansas City woman finally saw her rapist sentenced to 15 years in prison in May 2015.

A woman we called “Juliette,” to protect her identity, had been the subject of a KCUR investigation in which we exposed a failure by Kansas City, Kansas, Police to follow up on a DNA match made six years before Juliette’s rapist was finally arrested.

The result of our story couldn’t help heal the wound brought on by Juliette’s rape and attempted murder in 1999, but it brought her a small sense of justice.

“You’ve done awesome work and the story just keeps digging toward the systematic failures,” she wrote to me after the story aired. “I’m so pleased with your work and I’m really appreciative.”

Juliette’s story is part of a growing body of investigative work being done at KCUR, Harvest Public Media and the Kansas News Service. Recent stories, which have won three regional Edward R. Murrow Award and a national Public Radio News Directors award, are just the beginning.

This year, KCUR will begin work with American Public Media on a new investigative journalism initiative that will bring more resources on Kansas City. The initiative is thanks to a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  KCUR will work with stations in Minnesota, New York, Georgia and Southern California to expand the investigative capabilities of public media.

"A healthy democracy needs investigative journalism,” said Chris Worthington, who will serve as editor-in-chief of the project. “Without it, the powerful go unchecked and the voiceless have no voice.”

In addition to Juliette’s story, which won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing, recent investigative work by KCUR includes:

  • Our most recent investigation explored the emotional reasons behind Kansas City’s high homicide rate. Entitled “The Argument,” the six-part series looked behind the top motive for a murder (an argument), tracking six cases that were representative of domestic violence, access to firearms, retaliation, drugs and mental illness. We found that on legal weapons alone, Kansas City has six times more federally-licensed firearms dealerships than QuikTrips, the local version of 7-Elevens.
  • Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat,” a Harvest Public Media expose on worker deaths and injuries in U.S. slaughterhouses and OSHA’s failure to fine or regulate them. The three-part series, cited as showing the promise of regional collaborations by Columbia Journalism Review, was awarded first place in the Enterprise/Investigative category by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI). Judges commented that “...the storytelling was crisp, the examples were compelling, and the production was clean.”
  • An exclusive on Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, questioning his ethical conduct in a sexual abuse case prosecuted by his office. After reporting done by KCUR’s Dan Margolies, a disciplinary panel found Zahnd guilty of professional misconduct and recommended that he be publicly reprimanded.
  • An in-depth-look at a flawed voter registration database that is used by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to shore up his unfounded claims of voter fraud. Kobach, part of the Trump Administration’s efforts on false reports of widespread voter fraud, operates the Interstate Crosscheck system, which houses half of all U.S. voter registrations. 
  • An expose by Sam Zeff and Dan Margolies outlining how Bill Self, the University of Kansas basketball coach, pays little income tax on his multimillion dollar salary, thanks to tax cuts instituted by Gov. Sam Brownback.
  • An investigation revealing that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas City, Kan., often ran roughshod over criminal defendants’ rights, including the illegal taping of attorney-client meetings and the prosecution of a man later exonerated of murder. The story by Dan Margolies and the late Mike McGraw of KCPT found what lawyers in the office called a “Lord of the Flies situation.”

Peggy Lowe is an investigative reporter for KCUR 89.3. She will take the lead in KCUR’s work with the new grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.