State Integrity Investigation inspires action from elected officials and citizens

By Alisa Miller, President and CEO of Public Radio International

The success of the State Integrity Investigation is the result of three organizations combining their complementary strengths for a single project and vision. Global Integrity provided a wealth of experience in research and data-gathering in the area of government transparency and accountability. The Center for Public Integrity brought a network of investigative journalists and important editorial leadership. And Public Radio International contributed editorial expertise, leadership in web, social media and digital tools and its collaborative skills by selecting and working with a network of public radio station partners.

In the end, PRI’s project goals were three-fold: contributing to the creation of an incredible storytelling platform for government transparency and effectiveness, partnering with leading stations and other news players to tell local-national-and-international angles on these stories, and finally inspiring individuals to share the State Integrity Investigation results with their family, friends, fellow citizens, and the elected officials who have the power to change the way state government works. In order to reach the final goal, PRI was responsible for creating and managing the initiative website, www.stateintegrity.org, and leading all the social engagement for the project.

Results are still coming in but we believe this partnership is accomplishing something special. Since the corruption risk report cards for all 50 states were published on March 19th, more than 1,250 stories have been generated reaching over 15 million people*. Approximately two dozen public radio stations have been leaders in covering the investigation findings in their states and diving deeper by telling follow-up stories. Many local newspapers also wrote stories and op-eds. And CNN, ABC News and even The New York Times got into the act. Many expressed concern over the extent of the lackluster grades that a majority of states received.

But perhaps even more important, elected officials in seven states have referenced the State Integrity Investigation as evidence for needed reforms. And three states -- Delaware, Iowa and Maine -- have already enacted new laws that will increase transparency and cut the risk of corruption in state government.

With that said, as reporters found in state after state, elected officials rarely take these steps without further public engagement and conversation. So we made it easy for people to take on the important role of vigilant public citizen. We created a viral and attractive "hot map" of the ratings of the 50 states. The corruption risk report cards have a button that lets the public easily e-mail the results and a personal message to their legislators and governor. And already, more than 3,000 report cards have been e-mailed. Users can also post a smaller version of their state’s report card on their own website or blog by clicking the “share” button. And if someone wants a larger version of the report card, there is a PDF of  your state's report card that can be printed out and used in person. (Click here for a full list of report cards in PDF version.)

Now we want to hear more from you. Leave a comment on our Facebook page, tweet us at @Stateintegrity, or e-mail StateIntegrity@pri.org, and tell us what you’re doing to improve the laws and practices in your state. We’ll collect your responses and your ideas, and continue to update our Reform Efforts page with new activities. Citizens and good government advocates need strength in numbers to let elected officials know that the people want change.

We’ve given you the full results for your state, including a thorough examination of the laws that guarantee transparency and accountability, and the day-to-day practices that either enforce those laws or render them useless. It’s up to you to share those findings with your social network and your elected officials, and start asking for open and responsive government. The State Integrity Investigation partners have taken the first step toward better government in the states by investigating, collecting and crunching the data, telling the stories about the results and providing helpful tools. The hard work, and the reward of better government, is ultimately yours.

*includes the circulation numbers for all the newspapers that had an article and the total audience for TV, radio news shows that had a story.

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