Ida B. Wells Society kicks off New Year line-up with an examination of federal Paycheck Protection Program

Ron Nixon and Reese Dunklin

The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting kicked off its first workshop of 2021 with a close look at the federal government’s fraught Paycheck Protection Program.

While the program – often referred to as PPP – was designed to infuse small business with $349 billion in emergency loans to help keep workers paid and business owners out of bankruptcy, billions instead made their way into the accounts of large companies.

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and Associated Press Global Investigations Editor Ron Nixon, along with Associated Press Investigative Reporter Reese Dunklin, discussed their work uncovering the shortfalls of the program virtually with IBWS members Jan. 19.

“This is only the beginning,” Nixon told the audience. “You can do some quick hit story by pulling up the data and saying ‘Oh, OK, cool – eight businesses in my area got Paycheck Protection money, but to dig deeper, you’ll need more.”

With Congress set to provide another round of funding under a new administration, it’s a topic prime for more probing.

“You know covering paycheck protection and working with this data, it’s really a resource and a tool that you can use in so many different ways, so many different beats, so many types of subject matter,” said Dunklin, who has been the lead investigative reporter on a number AP stories looking into the program and its problems. “It can really expand what you’re doing in so many ways.”

Throughout the evening, Nixon and Dunklin walked through the background of the program, what data is available to journalists, how to report on it and the pitfalls and red flags to avoid.  

Members can view a recording of the workshop in its entirety at idabwellssociety.org.

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