Our Journalism Has Impact

Roderick Kemp in Unforgiven

At the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, our goal is to do important public interest journalism about Florida and issues that matter to the state. That means writing stories, producing radio reports, and funding documentary projects that make a difference in the Sunshine State.

In other words, we want our journalism to have impact.

And for a modestly funded nonprofit, FCIR has been punching above its weight since 2010. Here are a few examples:

  • A series about private virtual school operator K12 Inc. sank the company’s stock price 13 percent and prompted the state Department of Education and school districts in Brevard and Volusia to launch reviews.
  • An expose about the nonprofit Citizens Awareness Foundation, which used Florida’s public records laws to create a money-making lawsuit mill, resulted in the shuttering of the organization and changes to state law.

Of the many more stories we’re proud of, perhaps the most significant is the 2016 documentary short “Unforgiven,” about voter disenfranchisement in Florida. The eight-minute film was distributed through the Miami Herald, TIME, The Atlantic, Salon and other news media.

“Unforgiven,” produced by Alexandra Clinton and directed by Adeel Ahmed and Ashwin Gandbhir, told the story of Florida’s 1.7 million disenfranchised voters through Fort Lauderdale resident Roderick Kemp, who in 2016 was notified by state officials that he was losing his voting rights due to a 30-year-old conviction in a minor drug case.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes congratulates Roderick Kemp on the executive order reinstating his voting rights.

Three months after being featured in “Unforgiven,” Florida’s Office of Executive Clemency notified Kemp that his voting rights had been restored. Now, one year after telling his story publicly through the documentary short, FCIR caught up with Kemp to see what impact FCIR’s journalism has had on his life.

FCIR: What made you agree to participate in “Unforgiven”?

Kemp: I felt it was time to tell my story. It was something private I lived with for over 20 years, and having my voting rights taken away caused me to face my past.

FCIR: How did you feel watching “Unforgiven” for the first time?

Kemp: I saw myself in a new light. It’s not often we get to see ourselves as others would.

FCIR: Your voting rights were restored a few months after “Unforgiven” was released. Did this take you by surprise?

Kemp: Yes! It took me completely by surprise. My first reaction was that I misread the notice, then I had to pinch myself, especially since I know there are many who have been waiting for years to get their rights restored.

FCIR: To what degree do you think “Unforgiven” played a role?

Kemp: I think it played a significant part, with the national online exposure it had through several major online news outlets and picked up by some of the Florida newspapers. There was ample enough exposure that I’m sure it got noticed by the governor’s staff.

FCIR: How has your life changed since “Unforgiven”?

Kemp: It has given me a platform as a requested speaker for various engagements or community groups and employee unions, to share my story in support of the ballot initiative for 2018 to automatically restore voting rights to those who have paid their debt to society.

FCIR: How are you doing now?

Kemp: I am doing fine in feeling my “full existence” as a citizen once again, and I have learned there was nothing for me to have been ashamed of — that we all make mistakes.

FCIR is a nonprofit organization funded by foundations and individual donors. Many of our donors provide modest annual support — $20, $30, $50. Without those contributions, project like “Unforgiven” aren’t possible.

If you’d like to support FCIR’s journalism in 2018, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution by the end of the year. Through December 31, all individual donations to FCIR of up to $1,000 will be matched dollar for dollar by the Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund and the MacArthur Foundation as part of NewsMatch 2017.

Please help us have an impact in 2018.

Please donate online today or by calling 305-520-9621.

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