Today is the first day of our annual webathon. All week, we’ll be asking you to help support Reason‘s journalism. Our goal is $200,000 this year, and we hope you’ll contribute. Besides the satisfaction of donating the worthy cause of free minds and free markets (plus the tax break!) there’s some pretty good swag. And you might as well donate early, since kicking in cash now will make the popups go away for the duration of the webathon.
You’re going to hear a bunch of reasons to give to Reason over the course of the webathon, but I’m going to kick things off by asking you to support our investigative reporting. We have many folks on staff who aren’t afraid to go spelunking and share what they find—but I want to highlight the work of two reporters: Elizabeth Nolan Brown and C.J. Ciaramella.
When we look back at more than 50 years of Reason archives, we’re especially proud of the causes we adopted back when everyone else thought they were hopeless or even downright crazy. Stuff like supporting gay marriage decades before even the Democratic Party came around. Or backing drug legalization at a time when “Just Say No” was a nearly unquestioned mantra. These are stories that required Reason journalists to see what others couldn’t, but also to seek out the facts necessary to set the record straight and win skeptics over to the cause of individual freedom.
The war on sex trafficking, as Brown has been explaining in our pages for years now, is the new war on drugs. In the last year, Brown obtained secret Department of Justice memos, got the principal players in the huge story of the shutdown of the adult classified site Backpage.com to go on the record exclusively with Reason, and generally scooped the heck out of everybody else covering this important beat thanks to a combination of hard-earned access and perseverance. All of this has been in the service of demonstrating how a well-intentioned effort has gone horribly awry, threatening not only the civil liberties and personal freedoms of consenting buyers and sellers of sex, but also everyone from internet users to airline travelers to hotel guests along the way.
(By the by, Brown did all of this investigative work in addition to writing you—yes, you!—an email every single morning and also being our pointwoman on the “Kamala Harris Is a Cop” meme.)
C.J. Ciaramella is on another one of those beats that seem crazy until you win: criminal justice reform. Reason has been beating this particular drum for so long we’re getting carpal tunnel.
But Ciaramella wakes up every day and FOIAs a new police department or writes more scripts to get information from messy state data dumps or just scans local news for opportunities to get the rest of the story—the real story—after other outlets have replayed cellphone footage for the rubberneckers and moved on.
This year Ciaramella did a deep dive on rampant police abuse in Vallejo, California, and unearthed story after story of officer misbehavior going unpunished. He reported on an Alabama couple who lost their house after police raided their house, seized their cash, and ruined their lives for $50 of marijuana. He shared the tale of a woman who was desperate to get answers about her son’s death at the hands of New York police.
But when you do stuff like release secret government memos or publish deep dive on a controversial asset forfeiture case, you’d better be sure the whole shebang is airtight. And that’s where things get expensive. We are very lucky to have a barrel full of some of the smartest lawyers around sharing quarters here at Reason.com (hi Volokhers!) but sometimes you also need the kind of lawyers who want to be paid in actual money.
Court documents and Freedom of Information requests cost money (though they shouldn’t!). So do plane tickets to Arizona where your subjects are on house arrest. So does a big wall to tack up newspaper clippings and connect them with colored string. (Just kidding, Liz and C.J. don’t do that. Probably.) And coffee. Lots of coffee.
If you want to see more of the kind of investigative journalism Brown and Ciaramella produce, please consider donating to Reason. If you have donated in the past, thank you for your support. We hope you’ll donate again this year. If you haven’t donated before, but you like what you read, watch, and listen to at Reason, consider supporting the work of principled libertarian journalists who work hard to dig up truths no one else even thought to look for.