Alumnus honored for investigative work

Friday, April 3, 2020
Will Carruthers

By Cash Martinez

The Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has honored North Bay Bohemian reporter and department alumnus Will Carruthers for his work on two parts of an investigative series entitled “The Power Brokers.”

Along with Bohemian contributor Peter Byrne, Carruthers spent six months investigating the Rebuild North Bay Foundation, a PG&E-funded nonprofit which promised disaster relief to those impacted by the Tubbs Fire in October 2017. As Carruthers’ article points out, these funds were mostly put toward administrative costs, with only a little money being used for grants.

The investigation uncovered special political interests within the organization, including the founder’s connection to Sonoma Media Investments, LLC. Carruthers’ series calls into question potentially unethical journalism practices on the part of The Press Democrat, one of the newspapers owned and operated by Sonoma Media.

“It’s sort of media criticism, the fact that this didn’t really show up in The Press Democrat, or what would show up in The Press Democrat would be supporting the activities of the non-profit,” Carruthers said in an interview. “They’re not really mentioning potential conflicts of interest.”

Carruthers was supposed to receive the James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the professional journalist category at a dinner on March 19, but the event was postponed indefinitely to comply with the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place orders in response to the COVID-19 health emergency. Carruthers is being given the award because of the information-gathering techniques he used to report the story.

“A lot of the reporting process was requesting documents, waiting, bugging people for documents, reading the documents, stuff like that,” Carruthers said. “I worked on the Golden Gate Xpress as the multimedia editor for two semesters, so I didn’t do a ton of writing while I was a student there. It wasn’t until after graduation that I started doing freedom of information requests.”

After graduating from San Francisco State in 2015, Carruthers began working as a local news reporter for the Ingleside Light. “I sort of cut my teeth there,” he said.

In 2018, Carruthers moved back to Sonoma County. He was hired by the Bohemian in November 2019.

Read the first two parts of "The Power Brokers" series—Juiced and Charity Case.