Monday, October 15, 2007

Rebirth of investigative journalism?

By Libby

As the dead tree media struggles to reinvent itself in the internet age and protect its profit margin by relying mainly on homogeneous, short take wire stories, this strikes me as an encouraging development.

Paul E. Steiger, who was the top editor of The Wall Street Journal for 16 years, and a pair of wealthy Californians are assembling a group of investigative journalists who will give away their work to media outlets.

The nonprofit group, called Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine (and occasionally to other media) where the group hopes the work will make the strongest impression. The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.

Brace yourselves for a howl of outrage from the wingers on this since the wealthy Californians in question are -- gasp -- Democrats and of course the success of the project will depend on the mainline media's willingness to publish their work at a time when the trend is towards shorter pieces and they're already muttering about verification issues before they even see the first piece. But Pro Publica seems undaunted. Steiger indicates the organization will publish the pieces themselves if they can't get the media to carry them.

Still I'm encouraged. True investigative journalism is what has been sorely missing in the current incarnation of the "information age" and I expect a good product delivered in a timely manner will find a significant readership.

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