Updates from the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, from features to events

The BINJ Year-In-Review Video

Join us next Monday for our next open newsroom

Dear Readers & Supporters,

You may think it is premature to email out our year-in-review in the first week of December. And you would be right; after all, we still have another event this month (details below) plus more features to drop in 2018.

Nevertheless, we’ve done a lot this year, and we want to give you a unique annual report as you plan for any end-of-year giving you’re doing. Please check out our video recap and share it—we think you’ll be amazed at how much we accomplished.

Sincerely,

Chris Faraone, Editorial Director


WATCH OUR YEAR-IN-REVIEW ON THE BINJ SITE

AND YOU CAN SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK HERE


TWO NEW FEATURES ABOUT DANCE & MOVEMENT

BODIES WITHOUT BORDERS: Movement and the immigrant experience at the region’s second home for countless cultures (By Micaela Kimball)

THE MOVEMENT: Paradise Moves tells stories without words (By Lynne Doncaster)


EVENT NEXT MONDAY (DEC. 10)

Interested in local journalism? Join BINJ, MuckRock & Emerson Engagement Lab for a public newsroom to help with our investigation.

  • Meet and mingle with local journalists and enjoy light refreshments 5-6PM.

  • Presentation of the story BINJ has been covering about gun sales in Massachusetts will start at 6PM.

  • Learn about the data MuckRock has gathered through FOIA requests. Be a part of the investigation and help us dig through public records related to police militarization and gun sales in Mass.

  • REGISTER FOR FREE ON EVENTBRITE


GIVETOBINJ.ORG

On Giving Tuesday, a new BINJ site

Your source for independent media in Mass

Dear Readers & Supporters,

This is an exciting one to write. In addition to the usual updates about news, events, and features—and we have plenty of those announcements as well—we are thrilled to introduce our new dedicated BINJ website. You can check it out at binjonline.org.

I won’t over-explain why we haven’t had a site until now. Basically, we’re not a direct-to-consumer product, but instead publish through partner outlets, whether that’s El Planeta, The Shoestring in Western Mass, Worcester Magazine, or DigBoston.

At the same time, in loading content onto the BINJ site and re-reading old features and columns in the process it became clear that our supporters, as well as the general public, will only stand to benefit from having our work in one place.

We’re proud of everything we’ve done (it’s not all posted yet, but we’re getting there), and we thank everyone who has helped make it happen. Moving forward, we hope to do much more, and we’ll need YOU.

Please consider us on this important day of giving. It’s like helping all your favorite causes at once.

Sincerely,

Chris Faraone, Editorial Director

GIVETOBINJ.ORG


FEATURE FOLLOW-UP

Digging deeper into the abyss of reckless unchecked state spending on guns and ammo

We are extremely excited about this ongoing project. Thanks to an Online News Association (ONA) grant that we received along with MuckRock and the Emerson College Engagement Lab, we will continue digging on multiple topics related to guns in the Commonwealth well into 2019. Our latest is a follow-up to Fire Sale Pt. 1, and is our attempt to keep Mass purchasing officials and law enforcement authorities accountable for questionable procurement decisions.

EVENT

Help with our investigation

WHAT: Are you interested in doing serious journalism? Want to work with our team? Come join BINJ, MuckRock, and the Emerson Engagement Lab at this open newsroom to help us dig through public records related to police militarization and gun sales in Mass.

WHEN: Monday, December 10

  • 5-6pm: Setup and mingle (light food and refreshments served)

  • 6-6:30pm: Introduction to data and research technology

  • 6:30-7:30pm: Interactive open newsroom

  • 7:30-8pm: Closing and action items

WHERE: encuentro 5, 9 Hamilton Place, Boston

*Laptop or smartphone not required but could come in handy. Session will feature introduction and instruction plus hands-on research in which attendees can contribute to our ongoing investigation into firearm sales in the Commonwealth. 


CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT

Party Thursday plus Chomsky props

We'll see you in Downtown Crossing

Hello To All:

You may be wondering, Did the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism intentionally wait for the election to be over to email us?

The answer is simple: Yes, we did.

With much love and respect to partisan politics, we take a lot of pride in always looking past the horse race. With another election in our rearview, now is the time to dig deep on innumerable issues, and our team is ready for action.

If you’re in the Boston area this Thursday, please stop by our holiday engagement party at the Good Life in Downtown Crossing. There will be interactive activities, reporters to mingle with, and of course, great food and beer. We hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

Chris Faraone, Editorial Director

P.S. If you can’t make it on Thursday but would still like to support our efforts, you can make a one-time donation or become a Reporter Supporter in just a few seconds.


BINJ Party Tomorrow …

Find More Info On Thursday’s Event on the FB Invite


Featured in new Chomsky film …

We won’t make too big a deal out of this other than to thank Noam Chomsky’s whole team as well as Suren Moodliar of encuentro 5 and Mass Peace Action for inviting us to be part of the nonprofit fair that preceded the 2016 taping of Internationalism or Extinction, which was filmed at the Old South Church and hosted by the great Wallace Shawn. You can watch the whole documentary here, including the part at the beginning where we got to say a few words about BINJ.


BINJ Impact

Major shoutout to regular BINJ contributor Sarah Betancourt for her article, The Case for Katja Novin, subtitled, Will the healthcare system save this patient’s life, or end it? The article takes a deep look at Katja’s serious medical complications and struggles with the healthcare system. While we’re always hesitant to claim impact or victory, especially in such a sensitive situation, we are happy to report that Sarah’s article moved Katja’s healthcare providers and coordinators to act swiftly in her interest, and also helped the subject connect with experts to assist with her case. We will keep you posted on any further progress, and we wish our best to Katja and her family.


CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION

More props plus fall fundraiser

And the first installment of our F.I.G.H.T. Opiates series

Dear Readers, Friends and Supporters,

We have been working daily on the new BINJ site, uploading more than three years worth of journalism that we published in outlets ranging from Alternet to El Planeta. Going through the more than 60 features and 100-plus columns we have produced is both rewarding and a reminder of several stories we should follow up on.

At the same time, it’s frightening to think that many of these topics—from immigration, to surveillance, to equity in liquor licensing and housing—would never have been covered so extensively if not for your support and our talented and fearless freelancers.

The live site will be up later this month. In the meantime, the past few weeks have been some of our busiest to date.

Chris Faraone, Editorial Director


IT TAKES LESS THAN A MINUTE TO BACK BINJ


UPDATES

More Props for BINJ

We are thrilled and humbled to continue spreading the news that “The Yawkey Way,” a feature that we partnered on with DigBoston and ace writer Britni de la Cretaz to impugn past and present racism in Red Sox Nation, was recognized in this year's Best American Sports Writing compilation. Congrats to Britni, and you can READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE

“Fire Sale” on NECN

Thanks to Sue O’Connell and to her team at NECN for having us on TV to discuss the first installment of “Fire Sale,” our ongoing series about firearm procurement and corruption in Mass.


PARTY TIME

As promised, we finally planned an evening to meet with readers, supporters, and anyone else who wants to come hang with the BINJ crew. We’ve done these mixers before and they’re always a great time. Our team will treat it like an open house (read: informal), and will of course have awesome swag with us. Get there early for the good stuff and to chat with us about past and upcoming coverage alike. Thanks to our friends at Good Life for hosting us. RSVP AND INFO HERE ON FACEBOOK.


F.I.G.H.T. OPIATES

At long last, we’re up and running with the fruits of our F.I.G.H.T. project, in which we are teaming with Boston filmmaker Johnny Hickey to cover the opiate epidemic from angles that don’t often surface in mainstream reporting. This initial miniseries is specifically about Suboxone and other alleged addiction treatments. CHECK OUT THE FIRST INSTALLMENT HERE.

BINJ is working on several new projects, but we still need to do more. Remember - when you back local journalism, you back all your favorite causes at once.

Read It Before Anyone Else

The first installment in our series about guns in Mass

As promised, here is an exclusive BINJ reader-first copy of Fire Sale Pt. I, which will publish in different forms in outlets across Massachusetts over the next month … It’s a long read and we hope that you enjoy it in this format (you can also read it right on Substack)


IT TAKES LESS THAN A MINUTE TO DONATE AT GIVETOBINJ.ORG

Even for weapons dealers who have flouted state laws, there is major money to be made by selling munitions to police in Massachusetts

BY CHRIS FARAONE AND CURTIS WALTMAN

Mass Attorney General Maura Healey is well known for taking tough liberal positions on gun control. It’s a hard-earned reputation by multiple measures, as the AG has investigated and fined scofflaw arms dealers, spoken loudly in the wake of mass shootings, and even led attorneys general from other states in urging Congress to strengthen national safety regulations.

In response to her actions and grandstanding, Healey’s been a target of lawsuits brought by gun rights advocates, as well as protests online and in real life. In 2016, hundreds of Second Amendment activists, many with the Mass-based Gun Owners Action League, demonstrated outside of the State House after the attorney general moved to ban “copycat” semiautomatic assault rifles.

In addition to the penalties and rolled heads she and other prosecutors have accumulated in pursuing rogue dealers of firearms and gray market modifications, Healey’s office also monitors gun flow in law enforcement channels, a unique labyrinthine beast in its own right. The state spends millions every year replenishing and bolstering its arsenals, plus adding advanced equipment and technology. As do municipal police and other taxpayer-funded public safety outfits. These purchases often have little to no oversight beyond the procuring departments, and have as a result spurred certain impropriety; in one case, the Boston Globe first reported that Healey is investigating “allegations that … three troopers sold about 500 used state police guns to a Greenfield firearms dealer in 2015 on behalf of the department,” then “allegedly received nearly two dozen of those weapons as personal gifts.”

That ongoing spending scandal has been reilluminated as the state police also come under fire for overtime discrepancies between real hours worked and payments to dozens of lieutenants and captains, and with the media and public knowing that the brass ignored warnings about shenanigans that reportedly surfaced in an internal department audit. But even as prosecutors impugn payroll on one front and eye gun sales on another, private vendors and police-side purchasers of military gear have proceeded with business as usual. The Greenfield dealer still embroiled in the aforementioned buyback controversy has sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods to Mass in the last three years, while other active sellers include a shop in Worcester that the AG recently caught selling guns that are banned in this state.

Since the beginning of this year, our team at the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism has examined hundreds of state purchasing agreements, for everything from heavy crime-fighting equipment to consumables for laser printers. Of the many contracts that caught our attention, the firepower free-for-all unpacked herein (SP16-AMMO-X85, abbreviated as AMMO in following references) stands out as especially dubious, with entities on all sides operating in an unchecked fashion despite being on the radar of state prosecutors. Nearly three years into the AMMO arrangement, a malleable open call that allows for multiple contracts to be approved under it, vendors have leveraged the opportunity to make millions of dollars off the state. For most of those procurements, there was no competitive bidding. And the process is far from transparent.

AMMO comes up for a one-year extension on Oct 31. To date, participating agencies have already rung receipts that double their allotted $1.5 million budget.

Unless somebody or something interrupts the supply chain, it’s likely that the spending spree will carry on indefinitely.

SELLER’S MARKET

In September 2015, the Massachusetts State Police, along with the Department of Correction and the Environmental Police, announced that it had plans to solicit “bidders for the acquisition of firearms, ammunition, less than lethal munitions, and related training, accessories, and services/ maintenance.” A follow-up “request for response” notice was sent the following month to suppliers of “Public Safety, Law Enforcement & Protection” equipment. In this unveiling of AMMO, the participating state agencies sought proposals from makers and distributors of everything from practice ammo and targets, to handguns, silencers, tasers, tear gas, chemical munitions, pepperball launchers, dart guns, gas masks, and ballistic blankets. For anything that didn’t fit in those parameters, the authors included the catchall “use of force equipment.”

The procurement process is complex in Mass, as is the case in any public realm where millions—or for larger states, billions—of dollars are spent annually on everything from software, to vehicles, to catering and concrete. In order to help streamline thousands of transactions each year (there are currently more than 2,500 contracts in the system), the state’s Operational Services Division (OSD), a department of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, manages CommBuys, a massive dating site of sorts for approved private sector vendors and prospective buyers from state agencies, municipalities, and select nonprofits that apply for access to the clearinghouse.

A lot of bulk state purchasing is done directly through OSD, with its deputies facilitating everything from publicizing the announcement, to overseeing competitive bidding where applicable, to the selection process. Many software contracts, for instance, are managed by OSD, which connects departments to qualified suppliers. In such situations, among other safeguards, OSD designates strategic sourcing services teams (SSSTs), which are structured as deliberative bodies “composed of members drawn from departments and eligible public entities that have an interest or expertise in particular commodity and service categories” and that help make decisions about procurement. A sourcing team assigned to parse bids for a contract relative to school bus window replacement, for example, includes stakeholders from the departments of transportation and recreation, among others.

Whereas so-called statewide contracts as described above have direct OSD oversight, “nonstatewide” contracts simply use the CommBuys portal as a pass-through in procuring goods and services. For AMMO, the latest mass police solicitation of guns and other combat tackle like pepper projectiles and sound suppressors, it is solely the participating departments that weigh options and execute agreements. A review of publicly available and mined materials related to purchases stemming from arms-related contracts suggest that procedures of such ponderous proportion proceeding for years without input from a third-party administrator can lead to a lack of transparency as well as other concerns including but not limited to:  

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