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Welcome to The Watch
“A masterpiece of reporting . . . If the goal of great journalism is to speak truth to power, Balko’s contribution does just that.”
— Judges’ statement, 2022 Deadline Club Awards
“Radley Balko is one of those throw-back journalists that understands the power of groundbreaking reporting and how to make a significant impact through his work. Time and time again, his stories cause readers to stop, think, and, most significantly, take action.''
— Judges' Statement, 2011 Los Angeles Press Club Awards Ceremony
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 at 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 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 campaign against a reformist police chief.
What kind of reporting/investigative journalism can I expect at The Watch?
Here are some examples of my recent work:
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. When you spend months on a reported story, you want people to read it!
Why should I subscribe?
First, to support my reporting. For now at least, this site will be my primary source of income, and the primary way I fund my journalism.
I broke into journalism with the story of Cory Maye, a black Mississippi man who at the time was on death row for killing a white police officer during a botched drug raid. My reporting helped Maye obtain a thorough legal defense and get off of death row. He was eventually released from prison.
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.
— My reporting on predatory municipal courts in St. Louis County, Missouri, during the Ferguson protests inspired state and federal investigations and led to changes in state and local laws.
— My investigation of illegal no-knock drug raids in Little Rock, Arkansas, became a key issue in that city’s mayoral election. After winning, Mayor Frank Scott appointed a reformist police chief, and the number of no-knock drug raids in the city dropped from over 100 per year to less than five.
— My investigation into the wrongful conviction of Alabama death row prisoner Toforest Johnson moved several current and former state officials to call for Johnson to be released, or at least for him to be 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 the dissolution of the nonprofit.
To ensure that my work here is of high quality, I hope to eventually use a portion of the 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.
Second, subscribers will also get regular, curated lists of important stories in the world of criminal justice and civil liberties. They’ll also get exclusive access to some commentary, as well as to Q&As with book authors, scholars, and other people who work in or are impacted by the criminal justice system. I also hope to invite subscribers to participate in some of the Q&A sessions.
What kind of commentary can I expect?
Here are a few recent examples:
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, most guest posts will first be available exclusively for subscribers.
How often will you post?
For now, aside from the regular roundup of important stories, I intend to post at least once 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.