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Local news matters: Indiana journalism investigations that had direct community, policy impacts in 2023

The Indiana Statehouse

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

‘Bad Bars’ investigation 

The IndyStar investigative team’s dive into violence and other issues at Indianapolis bars started in fall 2022.  

Journalists Ryan Martin and Tony Cook uncovered more than 600 reports of violent acts tied to Indianapolis bars since 2016, including homicides and gun violence. Their investigation revealed lax oversight and a decline in enforcement of underage alcohol rules. 

The reporting led to bars being shut down, calls from the community for more oversight, and an increase in funding for an understaffed Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.  

WFYI’s School accountability of student seclusion and restraint  

And Governor Eric Holcomb signed a new law this legislative session that blocks schools from temporarily removing a student from instruction except as a last resort.  

The Commission on Seclusion and Restraint also has to meet twice a year now, rather than once.  

These changes, among others came after reporting done by WFYI’s Lee Gaines. Her work, based on public records, school logs, audio records of state meetings, and parent interviews– found that some schools do not accurately report incidents of restraint and seclusion to the state. 

The DOE is also required to conduct an annual audit of seclusion and restraint data reported to the agency by school districts, according to a rule that took effect in 2018. 

But the department has no record of an audit ever being done for the year before 2023, according to a spokesperson for the agency. The IDOE began conducting audits following inquiries from WFYI. 

This week on Noon Edition, our hosts will talk about local news reporting focused on these two stories, which had policy impacts in Indiana.  

You can follow us on X  @WFIUWTIUNews or join us on the air by calling 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send questions for the show to


Lee Gaines, WFYI Investigative reporter, 2023 SPJ journalist of the year 

Tony Cook, IndyStar Investigative Reporter, SPJ story of the year 

Gerry Lanosga, The IU Media School Director of Journalism and Associate Professor

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