One Story

Follow the money. That’s what reporters at The Daily Breeze, a 63,000-circulation newspaper in Los Angeles County, did when they began digging into the finances of a local high school district and found widespread corruption in a small, cash-strapped district.

City Editor Frank Suraci and reporters Rob Kuznia and Rebecca Kimitch were the main journalists who published more than 50 articles on finances at the Centinela Valley Union High School District. Some of the newspaper’s stories exposed the superintendent’s $663,000 annual compensation, which is high for an administrator leading a small school district serving some 6,300 students. Other stories focused on construction spending and the awarding of construction bids to companies that donated money to school board members.

Their year-long investigation led into a series of stories that earned them a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting in 2015. The county district attorney’s office and the FBI launched investigations into the district’s finances and the superintendent, who was ultimately fired.

For student journalists, this series on the school district finances is a lesson in a journalist’s role as the government’s watchdog. Students can also learn how to research annual budgets and other paperwork in their schools or districts to see how and where money is being spent.

Pay to Play – Rob Kuznia, Daily Breeze

‘Obscene’ paycheck – Rob Kuznia, Daily Breeze

Lesson Plans

Lesson: Analyze the Pros’ Use of Documents in Reporting

Lesson: Looking Beyond the Story