Civil Beat Staff

Kirstin Downey

Kirstin Downey

Kirstin Downey, a local girl who went to Kailua High School and then Penn State University, has returned home to the islands. She covers the federal government and its myriad effects on the lives of the people of Hawaii.

Kirstin had an award-winning career on the mainland, climbing from small newspapers in Colorado and Florida to bigger ones in major cities. At the San Jose Mercury in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, Kirstin wrote about the dwindling supply of low-income housing in the region and how rampant real estate speculation was damaging the banking industry. Her work foreshadowed the savings and loan crash of the early 1990s, and she covered the nation’s response as a reporter at the Washington Post.

At the Washington Post, Kirstin won six regional reporting awards for her coverage of economic, political and financial issues. She was a finalist for the Livingston award for outstanding young journalist in America for her series of stories on how investors had abused government loan programs to profiteer and destroy inner-city neighborhoods in the District, contributing to the growing social woes there. She used land records and mortgage filings to document the patterns. Her coverage contributed to what became the largest single set of prosecutions in the history of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, leading to more than 50 convictions.

Kirstin was awarded a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University in 2000-2001 after writing many stories about sexual harassment in the workplace, a social problem that came to light in depositions and documents filed in dozens of class-action lawsuits around the country.

She covered the terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001, writing about the events of the day and the tragic impact on human lives and the U.S. economy, as well as the mysterious follow-on anthrax attacks.

From 2005 to 2007, Kirstin wrote dozens of stories chronicling the dangerous growth of toxic mortgages, repeatedly raising concerns to government agencies that should have been doing more to stop the looming crisis. She emphasized the human impact of the problems, including the foreclosures that devastated families. In 2007, she used data-driven reporting to write in-depth stories describing the pernicious effect of toxic loans targeted and marketed to minorities, immigrants and young families.

She shared in the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Washington Post’s metro staff in 2008 for coverage of the campus massacre at Virginia Tech. Kirstin wrote pieces profiling the two heroic professors who died that day protecting their students.

After leaving the Post, Kirstin served as an investigator and writer for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, (the Angelides Commission), which published a New York Times-bestselling book on the causes and implications of the economic meltdown of 2008. She wrote the section of the book that detailed the many specific warnings that were ignored by corporations and top government officials.

Kirstin loves history. She is a book author, published by Nan Talese at Doubleday/Random House. Her biography of Frances Perkins, “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” a portrait of the country’s most effective progressive, was named one of the top 10 biographies of the year by the American Library Association. Her book about the controversial Queen Isabella of Spain, “Isabella the Warrior Queen,” was named to BBC’s list of Ten Books to Read, November 2014 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times award for best biography of the year. The book has been translated into Spanish, Polish and Chinese.

Kirstin and her husband, Neil Averitt, live in Honolulu. Together they have five children. She is trying to learn to speak Hawaiian, and finding it very difficult.

Bipartisan Support For VA Chief, But Can He Help Hawaii Vets? Department of Veterans Affairs

Bipartisan Support For VA Chief, But Can He Help Hawaii Vets?

Sen. Hirono addressed island veterans’ issues with David Shulkin during his confirmation hearing. The Senate approved him unanimously.

US Senate Bill Calls For Better Monitoring of Volcanic Eruptions Michael Poland/USGS/HVO

US Senate Bill Calls For Better Monitoring of Volcanic Eruptions

Hawaii’s Hirono supports the measure. An expert says the lack of seismic monitoring coordination threatens public safety.

The Surprising State Of Military Unreadiness Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Surprising State Of Military Unreadiness

“We need to tell the truth about how unready we are,” says U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

How Trump Is Working To Play Nice With Japan Cory Lum/Civil Beat

How Trump Is Working To Play Nice With Japan

Abe and his wife will visit the White House and then spend the weekend with Trump and his wife at the president’s Palm Beach golf resort.

Army Gives Go-Ahead For Dakota Pipeline Project Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Army Gives Go-Ahead For Dakota Pipeline Project

Native Americans pledge “massive resistance” against Trump administration plan to push ahead with the Dakota Access Pipeline

Education Secretary Passes With Near-Failing Grade betsydevos.com

Education Secretary Passes With Near-Failing Grade

Hawaii residents flooded Capitol Hill offices with letters, calls and emails opposing school-voucher advocate Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

Hunters And Fishermen Score A Quick Kill Of Public Lands Bill Courtesy: The Good Reverend Flash via Flickr

Hunters And Fishermen Score A Quick Kill Of Public Lands Bill

A congressional land grab of 3.3 million acres didn’t sit well with groups that use public lands, a significant issue for Hawaii, too.

After Secret Trip, Gabbard Derided As ‘Stooge,’ Praised As ‘Courageous’ Brian Tseng/Civil Beat

After Secret Trip, Gabbard Derided As ‘Stooge,’ Praised As ‘Courageous’

No stranger to the national stage, the Hawaii congresswoman is getting international attention after meeting with Syrian President Assad.

Gabbard Acknowledges Meeting With Syrian President Assad Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gabbard Acknowledges Meeting With Syrian President Assad

The Hawaii congresswoman reveals no details about the encounter during her inauguration week trip to the Middle East.

Few Tears Shed In Hawaii As Trump Dumps Pacific Trade Pact Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Few Tears Shed In Hawaii As Trump Dumps Pacific Trade Pact

The state’s congressional delegation opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but the state Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns.

Massive March On DC: Fear, Fun, Animosity And A Touch Of Aloha Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Massive March On DC: Fear, Fun, Animosity And A Touch Of Aloha

A Hawaii contingent joined a huge but disorganized demonstration that was part carnival and part crowd-control nightmare.

‘It Was Worth It’: Hawaii Trump Fans Glad They Flew To DC Cory Lum/Civil Beat

‘It Was Worth It’: Hawaii Trump Fans Glad They Flew To DC

They did what it took to get there, and in some cases wrangled prime viewing spots for the inauguration.