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NOTEBOOK – ONE GOOD READ: Why there’s so much investigative journalism about utility companies


Power and water utilities touch the lives of everyone, ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg wrote this week. It’s timely, and it’s challenging: The national news swing has already moved on from the majority of coverage after the Texas power grid was devastated by a deep freeze just a month ago, and the water crisis identified in Flint, Mich., in 2014 lasted six years, costing more than $400 million in infrastructure spending, and nearly $650 million in settlements to Flint residents. The unique challenges of understanding utility company operations lead to why these pieces of investigative journalism are ultimately fulfilling, Engelberg said: “As you look across the injustices we expose at ProPublica, a lot of them share a theme: the tendency of government officials to become overly sympathetic to the industries they are supposed to be overseeing. The problem is known as ‘regulatory capture,’ and we’ve documented it in a myriad of agencies. … Our reporting on the continued sales of dangerous car booster seats for children is a classic instance. Regulators had evidence for years that tougher standards were needed, yet they continued to slow-walk new rules.”

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