This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
Megan Banta, formerly a government watchdog reporter with the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard, will join The Salt Lake Tribune on April 17 as a full-time data enterprise reporter.
The position is part of a collaborative approach to data-driven, solutions-based journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Kem Gardner Policy Institute. The Tribune will retain full editorial independence over reporting that originates in the newsroom. Banta will also mine data for her reporting from many other sources. The position will be housed in The Tribune’s Innovation Lab, which is also supported by philanthropy and which focuses on solutions-oriented reporting.
“Reporting based in data and anchored in trusted, credible and quantifiable sources is essential to identifying important issues and in surfacing solutions,” said Executive Editor Lauren Gustus. “We look forward to Megan bringing her experience in mining and sharing valuable data in meaningful ways with our audience and community.”
Banta’s explanatory work will be brought to life through various forms of storytelling – including videography and richly informative graphics – and presented across social media platforms as well as at sltrib.com and in print. All are places where people are spending their time pursuing news, social connection, cultural trends and more.
The work will also be shared with partner news organizations through the Utah News Collaborative. This effort allows sharing of important content throughout the state. Andy Larsen, The Tribune’s popular data columnist who began that assignment analyzing and interpreting COVID-19 data, will continue contributing with rich topics, as always.
Banta has held previous news reporting positions at the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal and The Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Times. She is a graduate of Indiana’s Franklin College, with a BA degree in journalism/news reporting emphasis.
“Data-based reporting helps find ways to illustrate issues for people,” Banta said. “It also gives a solid base to question and hold accountable public officials about homelessness, housing, development, policing and other issues that impact people’s everyday lives,” Banta said. “Data reporting is an important tool for helping people learn about their communities and to make informed decisions.”
Banta brings to The Tribune a toolbox of valuable skills, including deep source development, trauma-informed reporting and public records and database search experience. She also has the patience and ability to wade through and translate legal and policy language for a general audience.
A midwestern U.S. native, Banta is a newcomer to Utah. She loves the outdoors. “I’m looking forward to being closer to the mountains and several national parks and to more opportunities for adventure,” she said.