Oh Look, Citizen Journalists Can Do Real Investigative Reporting
from the i-thought-that-was-impossible? dept
The newspaper people will tell you that if they are obliterated by the evil internets one of the big loses will be investigative journalism. If it hadn’t been for those gritty investigative journalists the newspaper hires there’d be no Watergate, no Whitewater Gate, no ‘Gates of any kind.
Of course, that’s just plain silly. Newspapers didn’t invent investigative journalism any more than they invented news or reporting news.
In fact, in this digital age where anyone willing to do the work can spill the beans to a massive audience, there is more reason than ever for independent investigators to step up to the plate. The folks at QuarryGirl, a blog dedicated to animal rights, have done just that.
Having been given a great deal of anecdotal proof that some food at Vegan restaurants around LA contained animal by-products, they decided to see if they could prove it. One might assume, as a bunch of bloggers with, potentially, no J-school experience whatsoever, they might make a hash of things. Instead, they made a plan:
Here’s an outline of the plan:
- Locate a facility that has no traces of egg, casein or shellfish in which to perform the advanced tests
- Purchase anti-contamination equipment including industrial sterilization supplies, lab coats, uncontaminated bags, swabs, razor blades, gloves and floor coverings
- Obtain highly restricted industrial food testing “kits” only available to the food manufacturing industry
- Develop a regimented process to test each food item with the highest standards of inter-test cleanliness, ensuring that absolutely no food particles from one food item contaminate another
- Select a diverse set of menu items from 100% vegan-only restaurants throughout LA (with one exception, see later)
- Order the food for carry-out, and seal it in an airtight bag in its original packaging either inside, or very close to the point of purchase
- Transport the food items to the testing facility intact and sealed, and perform the tests within 48 hours of purchase, keeping them refrigerated until immediately before the test
- Develop a strict bracketing control, with a thorough analysis of the testing facility and equipment before testing: A negative control to ensure no pre-existing contamination, and a positive control test on a known-positive food product (containing all three target non-vegan items) to ensure that the tests do indicate positive results
- Conduct the test in absolute secrecy to ensure that no restaurant would know they were providing samples, and pose as regular customers ordering take-out food in a normal way, with no disclosure that the items would be used for a test.
So, we divided up the work between us, and dedicated a Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday as well as over $1,000 of our collective money to pulling off the most extensive scientific test that we know of to find out, once and for all, if samples of restaurant food are vegan or not.
Not sure about you, but that sounds like a pretty sound plan. Find out what happened here.
This is just one example of how the inevitable death of newspapers will simply not be the information apocalypse they’d like you to think it will be.