ProPublica announced this week the hiring of three reporters for its new Northwest hub: Rob Davis, Audrey Dutton and McKenzie Funk. They will write accountability stories from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska and will be overseen by editor Steve Suo. The Northwest team marks ProPublica’s fifth hub in a growing network of regional and state-based offices.
“We are so excited to be up and running in the Northwest,” said Charles Ornstein, ProPublica’s managing editor for local initiatives. “This is an important region, home to major corporations and abundant natural resources, a gateway to international trade and an early warning system for climate change. We intend to cover those issues aggressively with an accountability lens.”
Based in Portland, Oregon, Rob Davis joins ProPublica from The Oregonian. He and the newspaper recently collaborated with ProPublica and Local Reporting Network partner Oregon Public Broadcasting. Their project, “The Cutting,” revealed how a tax-funded public institute became a lobbying and public relations outlet for the timber industry. The stories prompted a scathing state audit as well as legislation to defund the institute and more closely oversee its activities.
Davis’ 2019 series for The Oregonian, “Polluted by Money,” documented the influence of unfettered corporate campaign cash in weakening Oregon’s environmental protections. The project helped bring about a state constitutional amendment that will enable the legislature or voters to limit political giving. His 2016 “Toxic Armories” series led the National Guard to close and clean up lead-contaminated facilities nationwide.
Davis has been honored with several awards including two Scripps Howard awards for environmental reporting, two John B. Oakes Awards for Distinguished Environmental Reporting, the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism and the Online Journalism Award for innovation in investigative journalism.
Based in Boise, Idaho, Audrey Dutton joins ProPublica from the Idaho Capital Sun, a nonprofit where she served as senior reporter. Dutton was named the Idaho Press Club’s Reporter of the Year in 2022 for her coverage of COVID-19, which included stories about a doctor who spread anti-vaccine misinformation and prescribed ivermectin while receiving state grants for coronavirus testing. Washington’s state licensing board has since proposed disciplinary action against the doctor.
Dutton previously spent a decade at the Idaho Statesman, where she uncovered how the state overpaid highway contractors for substandard paving based on altered test results. Her reporting on worker deaths helped spur the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create a new regional program focused on residential construction.
Based in Bellingham, Washington, McKenzie Funk has been an author and frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, National Geographic and other publications. His first book, “Windfall,” shined a light on investors making financial bets on the effects of climate change; less than a decade later, their speculative activity is the world’s reality. Funk’s story for the Times Magazine on the wreck of an enormous Shell oil platform exposed the inherent environmental risks of Arctic oil extraction and transport across vast distances. The article was central to the case activists made in successfully pressing the Obama administration to halt new drilling in the region.
In addition to climate change, Funk has deeply examined government and private industry’s use of technology at the expense of personal privacy. Funk’s forthcoming book, “The Hank Show,” profiles an early pioneer in the world of data mining. His 2019 Times Magazine piece, focusing on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, drew on hundreds of government-procurement records, dozens of interviews and thousands of pages of documents to reveal how agents mine big data to hunt down and deport undocumented people in the United States.
“This is an amazing group of reporters who have deep connections in this region,” Suo said. “They’re eager to start telling stories for ProPublica.”
The Northwest reporting team also includes three LRN Distinguished Fellows: Lulu Ramadan of The Seattle Times, Tony Schick of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News.