Deceit, Disrepair and Death Inside a Southern California Rental Empire

Published Feb. 12, 2020


   About this project

This project was the culmination of a year's worth of data reporting and analysis, shoe-leather journalism, design and development and promotion strategy to get this important public service work in the hands of stakeholders who could effect change. I was a part of a team of 14 — editors, reporters and sound engineers — who helped produce a 9,000 word narrative presented digitally in both English and Spanish and as an hour-long investigastive radio special.

As data editor, my primary role was to back-read and try to replicate the lead reporter's data analysis, the pillars upon which the entire story rested. I helped debug code when necessary and point out errors when things didn't compute. From this data, I created visualizations and a searchable interactive map to help explain how mega-landlord Mike Nijjar amassed his rental empire, how it works and who has suffered as a result of his companies’ “eviction machine” and outright negligence.

In addition to the mainbar, I also created a “takeaways” page linked off the main project. “Decades of Neglect: 6 Key Takeaways About PAMA Management & Mike Nijjar’s Real Estate Empire” was intended to engage readers who wanted to get the investigation’s highlights without reading the full 9,000 word story.

I coordinated the creation of the online presentaion's powerful artwork by a local illustrator and worked with the newsroom's photographer to narrow down the many photos he had taken over the course of many months for final publication.

I also helped coordinate the translation of the digital story presentation from English into Spanish. Early on, the lead reporter recognized that many of the tenants in PAMA rental properties were Spanish speakers or the properties were located in heavily Latinx communities. We wanted to ensure they were able to read the investigation. We not only had the story translated, but I worked with our collaborations editor to disseminate the Spanish version to Spanish language outlets for re-publication.

   My role

UI/UX design

Front-end development

Art direction

Interactive mapping

Data editing and visualization

Translation coordination

   By the numbers

An hour-long radio special helped the reporting reach KPCC’s radio audience of nearly one million, and directed listeners to the project website. The online story has recorded more than 205,000 engaged minutes and 78,000 pageviews — far exceeding the reach of previous investigations. That reach was amplified by local and national media appearances by lead reporter Aaron Mendelson.


Radio Television Digital News Association's Regional Edward R. Murrow Award
News Documentary - Large Market Radio Winner, 2020

Investigative Reporters and Editors Award
Print/Online Division II Winner, 2020

Investigative Reporters and Editors Award
Audio - Large Category Finalist, 2020

Online News Association's University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism
Small/Medium Newsroom Winner, 2020

Online News Association's Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Use of Audio Storytelling
Winner, 2020