Statnews

Jared Whiltock's piece appeared
in Boston Globe's Stat News
in August, 2022

A resurrected story succeeds

FIRE's full array of services—from reporting guidance and research tools, to story grants and a Legal Consultancy—facilitated this investigation of the veiled practices of a nursing-home chain.

The story revealed evidence that the chain's use of bankruptcy, enabled by an opaque corporate structure, reduced its liability for alleged corruption and neglect, with painful results for vulnerable families.

It took five years and two reporters to publish the story. 

In 2017, FIRE awarded a Virtual Newsroom to a freelancer named Wallace Roberts, a longtime social-justice research and reporter in his 70s.

Roberts used FIRE's guidance and financial support to piece together two revealing data sets—one showing the ownership of dizzying network of nursing homes, the other showing their neglect record. 

Roberts was cleaning up the two data sets toward story release when he became ill and died, in 2018. 

FIRE promised his family that it would find a reporter to carry on the story.

Two years later, a reporter specializing in health-care coverage, Jared Whitlock, emerged to take the baton. 

With FIRE’s help, Whitlock built on Roberts’ reporting and took it in a new direction.

Roberts had identified a complicated ownership structure linking multiple chains and their facilities. On closer inspection, Whitlock discovered something interesting about the structure: It was facilitating bankruptcy by an affiliated nursing-home chain, Consulate Health Care, that stymied recourse for the chain's alleged neglect. 

Whitlock had the story, he brought it to the Miami Herald, the Herald commissioned the piece, his editor agreed on a fee and, with FIRE’s help, on an informal pledge to indemnify the reporter. Under its new owners, the McClatchy newspaper chain reversed the editor's offer and vetoed indemnification. 

“I felt betrayed, it was totally unworkable, we're talking about a litigious nursing-home chain,” Whitlock said. “It was heartbreaking to do all this reporting, and then have the rug pulled out from under it." 

With a FIRE Indemnification Grant, Whitlock searched for a new outlet; and with the help of a FIRE attorney, Boston Globe Stat News agreed to protect Whitlock. Whitlock had his story, the Stat readership had theirs. And so did the Roberts family, in memoriam