Investigative Journalism Done Better, Faster And Cheaper Without Newspapers

from the let's-get-real dept

There have been a series of ridiculous articles lately claiming that, with the collapse of some newspapers recently, somehow investigative reporting and local coverage won't work, meaning an era of corruption and the collapse of democracy. Fortunately, some are demonstrating the fallacies underlying these proclamations of doom.

Jay Rosen has been running an interesting experiment trying to find out just how many truly local stories an average newspaper includes in its paper, between all the national wire service stories. A look through a recent Seattle Times issue showed a grand total of seven locally produced stories. And a look at an issue of the Chicago Tribune found a total of eight locally produced stories. We're not talking about huge numbers here.

And, in fact, the finding of eight stories in the Trib comes from Geoff Dougherty, a guy who created quite a stir in newspaper circles when he claimed he could provide the equivalent (or better) local coverage of the Chicago Tribune for just $2 million a year, and provided the spreadsheet to back it up. And he's not just talking in theory. He's doing it. Today. For much less than the Tribune (which is bankrupt).

He's not the only one either. Talking Points Memo has been quite successful with its investigative reporting, which does a lot to leverage its community to help out in the process, while still employing full time journalists who are doing tremendous investigative reporting -- which should only improve as better tools are created to enable more to be done. The first link in this paragraph also discusses another example, the Voice of San Diego, which does local investigative reporting, and was funded by a bunch of local businesses that felt there wasn't enough investigative reporting locally.

Those who say that this can't be done apparently aren't looking around. Sure, some of these experiments may fail, but it's about time we got rid of two myths:
  • Myth 1: Newspapers put tons of money and resources into investigative journalism. They don't. And never have.
  • Myth 2: Only newspapers can do investigative journalism.
Not all of the new business models will work out, but some will, and we'll likely find the new models actually work much better than what we have today (which, let's face it, hasn't been that good in investigating things like corruption).

I was on a panel recently for journalists and PR people, and someone raised their hand to ask how people could "put the genie back in the bottle and charge for information again." The problem is that the question itself is wrong. There's no genie and there never was a bottle. People have never paid for the news. Newspapers never spent that much on investigative reporting, and they rarely did a particularly good job of it, other than an occasional big story in an attempt to win a Pulitzer. People can pine about that mythical genie and bottle, or they can start focusing on all the opportunity out there that will be coming out of some of these (or other) experiments.

Filed Under: investigative journalism, journalism, local news
Companies: chi town daily news, talking points memo, voice of san diego


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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 19 Mar 2009 @ 1:02am

    Re: Good God, you guys are worse than Fox News

    . Hence people reading Masick's stuff. I mean, he really hates the MSM. Why? Heck if I know.

    Huh? I don't hate the mainstream media at all. What gives you that idea? I have nothing against them at all, and want them to thrive. That's why I keep pointing out examples of how they can create better business models, while steering them away from bad business models.

    I think many of the big media publications do quality reporting work, and that's great. A lot of what we write here is built on their reporting.

    I'm confused, as a supposedly "recovering journalist" how you could possibly read what I write and claim I "hate the MSM." Yikes.

    But there are at least 13 or so people who agree that the MSM is evil, biased, elitist and anything else that sounds interesting.

    I actually don't think that at all either. I think people who scream about media bias are being silly.

    Why are you projecting on me false statements?

    Then the fact-checking, the constant calls to make sure everything's correct before it goes live ... it's not for everyone. Everyone who has a blog cannot do it. Some may be able to, those that are well-funded or have a sugarmama/daddy....but we'll see.

    Again, did anyone say otherwise? But did you not notice that all of the sites I'm talking about do real reporting, with fact-checking and real editors? Or did you not even read at all (quite a journalist you must have been!) and simply assume what was written? No one's talking about some random blogger replacing newspapers.

    So why build the strawman?

    Anyway, mediawhore that I am, I now work at a bloggityblogblog -- which, I can honestly say, is way less work for the money -- but I'm riding this gravy train.

    Huh. So you're basically admitting what a bad journalist you are. Fantastic. Why should the platform matter? If you were a real journalist it doesn't make a difference.

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