Years ago, after attending an annual conference of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and picking up a number of investigative hints, I returned to Hawaii and made a list of so-called “sacred cows”, institutions that have a big impact but are rarely subject to scrutiny or, worse, are considered off-limits for political or economic reasons.
My short list included health insurer HMSA, and the UH athletics department. The latter led to a 1997 series, “The Money Game,” tracking money that at that time flowed through booster organizations to fuel slush funds for athletics. The HMSA idea led me to look at “mutual benefit societies” established under Hawaii law, and later to reporting on the collapse of one of those organizations, Pacific Group Medical Association. That reporting led to uncovering fraudulent transactions between the insurer and the director of the United Public Workers, who was later convicted on numerous counts related to these insurance contracts.
The experience taught me that this kind of exercise can lead to identifying fertile ground for investigative reporting.
So what would be on a list of local sacred cows today? What would you put on the list and why?
Somewhere on the top of my list would be the timeshare industry. Timeshares now account for a large chunk of both room inventories and visitor stream, yet the structure and practices of the industry are rarely examined. But it doesn’t take much searching online to find lots of angry people complaining about some of those practices. I noticed this report on a case of fraud involving timeshare resales, but I doubt that it’s unique.
Anyway, let us know your selection of “sacred cows”.