But Who Will Do Investigative Reporting Without Newspapers?

from the someone-will-find-a-way... dept

Pat was the first of a few of you to send in this amazing investigative report done by the folks at The Smoking Gun, outing a bunch of "griefers" who go by the name Pranknet and who have caused a tremendous amount of trouble and damage throughout the US with their phone-based pranks. The story is fascinating for a variety of reasons, and well worth reading, but it (once again) highlights the fact that detailed deep investigative reporting isn't something that only newspapers can do. The reporters from TSG went well-beyond your typical investigative report as well. Rather than just outing the "leader" of the group, they tracked down numerous accomplices (many of whom insisted they couldn't be found) and outed them all. Apparently police and the FBI had been trying to track down members of this group for a while, but some good old investigative reporting -- from a website -- beat them to it.
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Filed Under: griefers, investigative reporting, pranknet
Companies: the smoking gun

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  1. icon
    Alan Gerow (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 12:16pm


    Who DID do the investigative reporting, is the bigger question. Did any major news sources put in the leg work & figure all this out? No! So, how well did the pros do against the amateurs? Well, the amateurs did amazingly well, and the pros stayed home. I guess it wasn't raining enough to get them out of their offices. Maybe a Google outage would get them back on the streets.

    The point hasn't been missed, you're making an additional point. The original point: without newspapers, who will do investigative journalism. The response: on-line news will, and here's an example. You now introduce a NEW point, asking how reliable they will be.

    It seems here, that the Smoking Gun (1) traveled not only across the country but INTERNATIONALLY to chase their story, and (2) they were highly successful at making contacts, following leads, uncovering information that the Federal Bureau of Investigations could not, and writing a comprehensive and well thought out story. At no point did they need to do any of that, the Smoking Gun is doing well enough as it is with TV deals and one of the top news sites on the Internet today; but they did do it, did it well, and will learn and do it even better next time. They are motivated to do it for the same reasons the print newspapers are motivated to do it, so your "amateur" argument doesn't hold because they did not behave as "amateurs" but are proving themselves to be the new "pros", while the old "pros" are proving to be the new "amateurs".

    So, what we have here is proof that (1) newspapers dropped the ball on a huge story, (2) an on-line source picked up the slack and was able to conduct a thorough and successful investigative report, and (3) their business model allows them to give it away for free to readers and financially support the report, reporters, & site.

    You can keep your blinders on, but here is a clear-cut example of why newspapers themselves aren't NEEDED. Most newspapers don't do ANY investigative reporting, or even have field reporters on staff anymore. The big papers (NYT, WP, BG) SOMETIMES, MAYBE conduct an investigative report if it's big enough, falls neatly enough in their laps, and doesn't piss off the advertisers or anyone the editor in chief likes. What we have shown in this story is a return to true investigative news reporting, for the love of the sport.

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