On May 31, Earth Island Journal and Truthout simultaneously published the first essay in a series that reveals the dramatic impact mass incarceration is having on the health of prisoners and local ecosystems across the United States. (Read America's Toxic Prisons on Earth Island Journal Read America's Toxic Prisons on Truthout).

How did this innovative investigative piece combining criminal justice and environmental justice reporting get started? The story began in 2015, when Earth Island published a report on a prison that had been built on a mountaintop removal site. Editor Maureen Nandini Mitra knew that the congruence of prison building and environmental damage was unlikely to be unique, but her small shop didn't have the resources to pursue that kind of investigation. At The Media Consortium's annual conference in February 2016, TMC staff suggested that Maureen should talk to Maya Schenwar, editor at Truthout. At a side meeting, the two editors made a deal to jointly apply for resources and to each assign reporters to make the story happen.

Thanks to a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the investigation became a reality. Candace Bernd from Truthout and Zoe Loftus-Farren and Maureen from Earth Island did the reporting. Working via Google docs, Maureen and Maya edited the piece. The outlets then published simultaneously this week.

This partnership exemplifies the best of collaboration —two outlets with unique chops in specific beats working together to tell a larger story. From this partnership we can learn what it takes to bring two outlets together:
1. An idea that truly requires the distinctive expertise of all the partners.
2. Trust between the partners--in this case, both outlets were longtime TMC members and the editors had served on committees together.
3. A face-to-face meeting to negotiate the partnership. While not necessary, this seemed very helpful.
4. Funding support so that neither outlet felt they had to dig into their own budgets to make an experimental project happen.