Muckraking

Every once in a while you get to do a story you’re really proud of. It isn’t about the quality of the photos, or the interesting video you captured, or the interesting audio you put together. In those stories, it’s the reporting that matters.

This is one of those stories.

I dug around a little and found out the Conway Police Department had been spending their surplus money on equipment. They had blown their $4,000 equipment budget by more than 500 percent one year, and by more than 200 percent another, spending money that otherwise would have gone back to the town to offset taxes.

The moment I looked at the budget breakdowns I realized I had something. It was like seeing an old friend—I smiled so hard I almost laughed. It isn’t that I think they police were wasting taxpayer money—they didn’t buy anything not intended for police business—but I knew in this economic climate it wasn’t going to go over well that they were spending $20,000 or more in the last few days of the year.

Digging is something you do in your spare time at a paper the size of the Sun. There are too few people and too much going on to really be dedicated to it. But there are more staff at the Sun than there were at the Reporter, and more people look to this paper to address their concerns since it’s the only one in town.

I’ve received several calls from readers thanking me for reporting on this. People wonder where I got the information and who the insiders was. One of the police commissioners wanted to know the same thing. But the entire story was built from the town finance records and the police commission meeting minutes. It isn’t a big conspiracy, it’s just putting the puzzle pieces together.

But what’s next is even better. This is phase one, but since I’ve been looking around I found phase two. There is more in store for the next installment, just wait.

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