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Sun Dec 25, 2016, 12:27 AM


With Tarbell, a whistleblower is betting on crowdfunded muckraking (Wendell Potter)

With Tarbell, a whistleblower is betting on crowdfunded muckraking

By Benjamin Mullin ē December 9, 2016

Journalism took a beating in 2016.

Donald Trump was elected president, thwarting pollsters and shaking off seemingly endless fact-checking. News organizations continue to lay off journalists as Facebook and Google gobble up the advertising market. And trust in media sunk to an all-time low, helped along by abuse on the campaign trail.

Despite that, a former whistleblower thinks journalism still has the power to make big changes. And he wants help from people who agree with him.

Earlier this week, Wendell Potter launched Tarbell.org, a spartan-looking website with the tagline "reader-funded democracy." Named after crusading journalist Ida Tarbell, who laid bare business dealings at Standard Oil at the turn of the last century, Tarbell is aimed at exposing the connections between big business and politics.

Leading the effort is Potter, a journalist-turned-public relations executive-turned whistleblower-turned journalist. After stints at the (now-defunct) Memphis Press-Scimitar and Scripps-Howard newspapers, Potter went on to spend two decades in the health insurance industry. Then, he experienced a crisis of conscience.

Finding himself surrounded by spin that concealed shady business practices, Potter left his day job and began railing against corruption in op-eds and interviews. He testified before Congress in 2009, recounting how health insurance companies "confuse their customers and dump the sick ó all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors."...

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