Investigations

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and analysis.

Outrages & Insights

Muckraking blog
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.

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Geoff Kelly

Geoff Kelly joined Investigative Post in 2019 after four years as editor and publisher of The Public, a weekly newspaper he co-founded, and 10 years as editor of Artvoice, another Western New York weekly.

Kelly was also editor of Pulp, an alternative newsweekly in Pittsburgh, for two years.

A native Western New Yorker, Kelly was raised in East Aurora, graduated from Canisius High School and received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Middlebury College. He began his journalism career as a freelancer for Artvoice. (First cover story: “Get the Lead Out,” about the City of Buffalo’s federally funded, scandal-ridden and ineffectual lead hazard control program.) He was made the paper’s editor in January 2000. 

Over the next two years, he co-wrote a series of articles about legacy radioactive wastes in Niagara County, covered toxic chemical exposure in the Hickory Woods housing subdivision in South Buffalo, and began to develop a beat covering city politics and government.

In April 2004, Kelly traveled to Iraq with a team of academics and journalists from The Nation, Free Speech TV and Middle East Report. His reporting from Baghdad appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Boston Phoenix and the Village Voice, among other publications. Later that year, Kelly moved to Doha, Qatar, where he freelanced for such publications as Arabies Trends and Qatar Today. He also served as senior media officer for the Qatar Foundation.

Upon returning to Buffalo and Artvoice in 2006, Kelly resumed writing about regional politics and government, with an emphasis on Buffalo’s City Hall, as well as environmental issues. He carried those interests to a new publication he co-founded in 2014, The Public, and they are among his beats now at Investigative Post.