Welcome to The Watch!
The best way to introduce all of this is probably in FAQ form. So let’s get to it.
What is The Watch?
It’s a newsletter and website run by me, Radley Balko. It will feature original reporting and commentary on the criminal justice system and civil liberties, along with some other stuff — amateur photography, music and culture, and occasional posts and essays about unrelated topics.
Who are you?
I’m Radley Balko, a journalist of 20 years. I worked at the Washington Post for nine years, and before that at Huffington Post and Reason magazine. I’ve written two widely-acclaimed books, Rise of the Warrior Cop and The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist (co-written with Tucker Carrington).
I’ve also won several journalism awards, including the L.A. Press Club’s Journalist of the Year, the NACDL Champion of Justice Award, the Innocence Project’s Journalism Award and, most recently, the Deadline Club award for feature writing, for my investigation into the Little Rock police union’s ugly campaign against a reformist police chief.
Why should I subscribe?
To support my reporting. Once I leave the Washington Post in December of 2022, reader support for this website and newsletter will be my primary source of income, and the primary way I’ll be funding my reporting and journalism.
You’ll be supporting reporting has had real-world impact. I broke into journalism with the story of Cory Maye, a black Mississippi man who at the time was on Mississippi’s death row for killing a white police officer during a botched drug raid. My reporting helped Maye obtain a thorough legal defense. He was eventually let off of death row, then released from prison a few years later. My decade of reporting on Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne eventually led to Hayne’s termination, and has been cited by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
My work has also been cited by several federal courts, including twice by the U.S. Supreme court, and read into the Congressional Record. Additionally:
— My reporting on predatory municipal courts in St. Louis County, Missouri, during the Ferguson protests inspired state and federal investigations in the matter, and led to changes in state and local law.
— My investigation of illegal no knock drug raids in Little Rock, Arkansas, became a key issue in that city’s mayor election. The winner of that election, Mayor Frank Scott, appointed a reformist police chief. The number of annual no-knock drug raids in the city dropped from over 100 to less than five.
— My investigation into the wrongful conviction of Alabama death row inmate Toforest Johnson moved several current and former state officials to call for Johnson to be released or given a new trial.
— My report on a Louisiana prosecutor’s scheme in which he let misdemeanor defendants out of community service requirements if they “donated” to his nonprofit sparked an investigation and and end to the practice.
To ensure that my work here is of high quality, once I get enough subscribers to earn a living, I hope to use a portion of subscriptions revenue to hire an editor. Depending on how many subscribers I get and how long and involved a particular piece may be, I also hope to hire a fact checker.
Subscribers will get a daily list of curated links to important stories in the world of criminal justice and civil liberties. They’ll also get exclusive access to some of the commentary, as well as to Q&As with book authors, scholars, and other people who work in or are directly affected by the criminal justice system. I also plan to invite subscribers to participate in some of the Q&A sessions.
What kind of reporting/investigative journalism can I expect at The Watch?
Here are some examples of my recent work:
Big Trouble in Little Rock — a police union’s campaign to take down a black, reformist chief
A high-ranking FBI attorney pushes junk forensics on guns and bullets
Another victim of America’s worst forensics fraudster has been exonerated
A Louisiana DA will let you out of your community service obligation — if you donate to his nonprofit
In America’s leading death-penalty county, judges routinely outsource their written opinions to prosecutors
Subscribers will typically get early access to the original reporting I publish here, but those posts will also eventually be made public after a few days — possibly earlier depending on the nature of the story.
What kind of commentary can I expect?
Here are a few recent examples:
It’s time to repeal the worst criminal justice law of the past 30 years
The criminal justice system also has an ‘alternative facts’ problem
Rod Rosenstein still doesn’t understand what’s wrong with forensics
Why we can’t trust the states to prevent wrongful convictions
‘Woke’ corporations are still funding groups who undermine criminal justice reform
Meet the rogue prosecutor who helped pass the law that enables rogue prosecutors
I also hope to invite guest authors to contribute. Depending on my arrangement with the author, some of those posts will also eventually be public and some will be paywalled. But again, any guest posts I make public will first be available exclusively for subscribers.
How often will you post?
For now, aside from the daily roundups, I hope to post a couple times per week, hopefully more if time and opportunity permit. But that’s an estimate. The frequency of the reported/investigative work I publish here will depend on what leads I’m pursuing, my timeline with editors and fact checkers, and what other projects I may be working on.
I’d like to make a more substantial contribution to support your work. Is that possible?
So glad you asked! Please feel free to email me.