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Outrages & Insights

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by Jim Heaney


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by Dan Telvock

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Jim Heaney

Jim Heaney is the founder of Investigative Post and serves as editor and executive director.

Heaney, 63, was an investigative reporter with The Buffalo News for 25 years before leaving the paper in August 2011 to start Investigative Post. His investigative work and beat coverage at The News focused on government and urban and economic issues.

His first major investigation for The News in 1987 documented racial discrimination and political cronyism at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. He pioneered the paper’s use of surveys to grade the performance of elected officials. In 1992 he exposed the city’s biggest slumlords and their lenient treatment by the city’s Housing Court. Next he produced an exhaustive analysis of Buffalo public schools, tracking disparities in student achievement and detailing the deplorable condition of many school buildings.

After a stint as The News’ computer assisted reporting editor, Heaney joined the paper’s newly formed investigative reporting team and produced a series of investigations related to economic development, including the city’s squandering of federal block grant funds, and, with colleague Patrick Lakamp, the failings of the state Empire Zone program. He then turned his attention to state authorities, exposing waste and abuse at the Thruway Authority and New York Power Authority.

In recent years, his investigation of Buffalo Common Council Member Brian Davis triggered a criminal investigation that resulted in his conviction on both state and federal charges. He and Lakamp exposed the city’s role in underwriting a failed restaurant in what became known as the “One Sunset” scandal and later turned up a myriad of problems at City Hall’s economic development agency, which lead to its dissolution.

Heaney documented state Sen. Antoine Thompson’s use of state dollars to promote himself,  and the seemingly safe incumbent was turned out of office the next time he stood for re-election. Heaney documented gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s lucrative dealings with government, history of generous campaign contributions and legal problems stemming from his company’s failure to maintain several high-profile downtown properties.

Heaney continued to put a price tag on costly economic development subsidies, including a Yahoo data center in Lockport and Alcoa’s aluminum plant in Massena.

Other stories he covered during his time at The News included an investigation into the beating death of a toddler at the hands of her father and the defection of Russian hockey star Alexander Mogilny.

“We have a lot of fine journalists at The News, but to my mind Jim was the point of the spear,” columnist Donn Esmonde said at a fete to honor Heaney upon his departure from the paper.

“His determination, to paraphrase Mencken, to afflict the powerful who needed afflicting, raised the performance bar in our newsroom. I know that Jim was an example and a mentor to younger reporters. For the rest of us, myself included, he was a journalistic conscience, a constant reminder to tell the story the way it needed to be told, to not let anyone off the hook,” Esmonde said.

Heaney wears a number of hats as editor and executive director of Investigative Post, including that of reporter. His most notable stories have documented shenanigans involving the Buffalo Billion program, dysfunction in the city’s Housing Court, and the failure of Buffalo police to apprehend murderers. His coverage of the selection of developers for the Buffalo Billion program triggered a federal investigation that led to the conviction of four state officials and development company executives.

Heaney has won more than 20 journalism awards and was a finalist for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his series on slum housing. His investigation of Buffalo’s misuse of block grant funds won Governing Magazine’s national reporting award in 2005. More recently, the New York State Associated Press selected Heaney’s “Outrages & Insights” the best newspaper blog in the state in 2010.

Since founding Investigative Post, Heaney’s reporting has been cited for excellence by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association and the Radio-Television Digital News Association, which awarded him and colleague Steve Brown of WGRZ an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting. That makes Heaney one of the few reporters in the Buffalo market – indeed, statewide – to win awards for print, television and online journalism.

Heaney was a leader in the Buffalo Newspaper Guild for more than 20 years. He served on eight negotiating teams and was a recipient of the union’s Outstanding Service Award in 2009.

Prior to joining The News in 1986, Heaney worked as a reporter and editor with The Orlando Sentinel, covering transportation, politics and local and state government. Before that he was publisher and editor of The First Amendment, a weekly paper he founded to serve Buffalo’s Kensington-Bailey neighborhood.

Heaney attended St. Bonaventure University and graduated from Medaille College in 1977 with a degree in media communications. He grew up in the Town of Tonawanda and is a 1973 graduate of Kenmore East High School.

Charlotte Keith

Charlotte Keith joined Investigative Post in September 2014, after graduating with honors from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Keith is a native of London, England. She earned her undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, where she edited Varsity, the school’s independent student newspaper.

At Investigative Post, she has covered Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development program, with stories on the lavish contract for the construction of the RiverBend facility, overblown job promises at IBM’s Buffalo office, a failed job training program, and the steering of real estate deals to politically connected developers.

She’s also written about the City of Buffalo’s failure to enforce its fair housing law, which is intended to protect residents who rely on government assistance to help pay their rent.

In 2016, she was a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists for her reporting on problems at Erie County’s Child Protective Services.


Sara Jerving

Sara Jerving has reported from over a dozen countries and been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. She joined Investigative Post in August 2018 and covers the environment.

She most recently worked in Nairobi, Kenya, for Devex, a U.S.-based publication, where she covered health, agriculture, climate change and humanitarian disasters.

She previously worked as an associate producer at Vice News Tonight on HBO and was part of a team nominated this year for an Emmy. Jerving was a finalist for the Livingston Awards For Young Journalists this year for an investigation into overpayment collections from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that was published by Vice News.

Jerving, 30, is a native of Madison, Wisc. She earned undergraduate degrees in journalism and international studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has a master’s degree in business and economic reporting from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

She was part of a reporting project at Columbia that documented what Exxon knew historically about climate change and the melting Arctic. The story was published by The Los Angeles Times and was cited by members of Congress in calls to investigate Exxon. Investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and several states attorneys general followed.

Most recently, The New York Times Magazine in June published her investigation into flaws within the Department of Defense’s Survivor Benefit Plan and its impact on veterans and their families.

Her work has also appeared in Bloomberg news and The Nation magazine.

Most of her reporting abroad has been in East Africa. She has also worked in Brussels, Belgium, covering the European Union for the Associated Press.


Marsha McLeod

Marsha McLeod joined Investigative Post in September 2018 as its criminal justice reporter.

She graduated with honors in May 2018 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. That summer she worked as an investigative fellow at The Trace, a nonprofit based in New York City that reports on guns and gun violence. She reported on the impact of stolen guns.

While at Columbia University, McLeod reported a Master’s thesis on county jail inmates who died of drug or alcohol withdrawal under the care of a private correctional healthcare provider.

McLeod, 25, is a native of Toronto. She graduated in 2015 from the University of Toronto with a dual major in visual studies and peace, conflict and justice studies. While a student, she won a Shelley Peterson Student Art Exhibition Award for a short video about solitary confinement.

Upon graduation, she produced a podcast, The Built Environment, that originated from four provinces. McLeod then worked as a production assistant to the Canadian photojournalist Rita Leistner on The Tree Planters, a project documenting reforestation in northern British Columbia.

Prior to her career in journalism, McLeod was a high performance sprint kayaker, winning 17 medals in national and North American competitions. She also worked as a counselor to youth with neurological disorders and volunteered extensively within Canada’s second largest jail.