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Investigations

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by Jim Heaney

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Jim Heaney

Jim Heaney has kept a quote from Carl Bernstein taped to the side of his computer terminal for most of his career that reads: “Journalism is not stenography, it is the best obtainable version of the truth.”

Those have been his words to work by, first at The Orlando Sentinel, then The Buffalo News, and now Investigative Post. He’s worked to embed that ethos into the DNA of the nonprofit investigative reporting center he founded in 2012.

Heaney is editor and executive director of Investigative Post. His reporting has been cited for excellence in about 25 journalism competitions over the course of his career. He was a finalist for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his series on slum housing. 

His investigation of Buffalo’s misuse of federal block grant funds won Governing Magazine’s national reporting award in 2005. He and Steve Brown of WGRZ won an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2016 for their investigation into Buffalo’s poor track record of solving homicides. In 2019, he won the Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Reporting for uncovering corruption in the Buffalo Billion program.

While Heaney continues to report on a limited basis, he spends most of his time editing, fundraising and coordinating news coverage with Investigative Post’s media partners, including WGRZ.

Heaney was an investigative reporter with The News for 25 years before he left in August 2011 to undertake plans to launch Investigative Post. His investigative work and beat coverage at The News focused on government and urban and economic issues. 

Subjects of his major investigations included government corruption, city schools, housing discrimination and wasteful public spending. He was an early practitioner of computer-assisted reporting and the use of surveys to gauge the effectiveness of local elected officials.

“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 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.

He can be reached at jheaney@investigativepost.org. His Twitter handle is @jimheaney.

Geoff Kelly

Geoff Kelly joined Investigative Post in April 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 appointed 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.

His reporting duties with Investigative Post focus on local government and politics.

Geoff can be contacted at gkelly@investigativepost.org. His Twitter handle is @ghkelly1969.

Phil Gambini

Phil Gambini was well known in Niagara County for his reporting with the Niagara Gazette before joining Investigative Post in December 2019. At the Gazette he reported on everything from regional politics and criminal investigations, to local ecology and contamination. 

Prior to joining Investigative Post, Gambini teamed with Jim Heaney to report on several stories on the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp. He continues to report on OTB, along with the environment, Niagara County politics and the treatment of immigrants held at the ICE detention center in Batavia.

Gambini grew up in Kenmore and North Buffalo. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with an emphasis in writing.

His parents are well known in the community: His father, Bert, was a program host at WBFO for 18 years, serving as a Morning Edition host and executive producer; his mother, Cori, has spent three decades as a nurse and was elected in 2012 as president of CWA Local 1168.

Readers can follow Gambini on Twitter at @phigambini and contact him at pgambini@investigativepost.org