Investigative Journalism Under Siege

Do you want to make meaning? Solve a problem? Disrupt the status quo? Then solve this problem: figure out a way to monetize investigative journalism. In the new media world.

No, not just journalism, thanks, but investigative journalism. By that I mean the product of professional journalists paid to dig for (relatively) objective truth, like facts. To uncover the hidden scandals, expose the corruption, clear up the misconceptions, and look beyond the spin.

Don’t confuse investigative journalism with breaking news, gossip, politics, expertise, and opinion. Maybe — just maybe — citizen news and crowd sourcing will compete with straight news media. We’ve got Twitter, news blogs, political blogs, and self-styled expert and personal blogs, among other new media, supplying breaking news and opinion. You’ve probably read the arguments along those lines. I’ve posted about it on this blog here.

Watergate: Flickr image by dbking

The problem is that investigative journalism is real work. It takes digging, research, interviews, and more digging, and more work. Volunteers don’t do it; professionals do it. And the organizations that pay those professionals depend, traditionally, on advertising revenues. And we’re in the midst of a rapidly changing media landscape, in which big audiences seeking impartiality are growing harder to find. The audiences are splintering, dividing into finer groups, getting lost in the long tail.

Breaking news? We get that in the new media world. In-depth reporting? Not so much. New York Times online? Washington Post online? Maybe. But your local town government? Who covers that? And are a few online sites of former great newspapers enough? Will the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report generate budgets and credibility for proactive in-depth reporting? What do you think?

So, in this new world, is somebody going to sponsor true investigative journalism? Will the Watergates of the future  be uncovered? For that matter, who’s going to go to those town council meetings?

So there’s a problem; a need. Do you have a solution?


  • marilyn monroe says:

    Why hasn’t media done more investigative journalism regarding the epidemic of misdiagnosing children with autism and aspergers? Autism Spectrum Disorder is a total joke, it lumps all levels of autism together in one big happy family…it’s absurd and unethical and well, just plain stupid. American Psychiatric Association should be ashamed of themselves for being so obtuse regarding what autism is and what it is these clowns realize that thousands of kids with ADHD, Bi-Polar, OCD,ODD, MPD and things like Fragile X and Hyperlexia are often being mislabeled “autistic” in these children? This had gone wayyyyyyy tooooo far people Government wants to label all these kids autistic…WHY? You tube has a video titled: autism spectrum seems out of control where a mom talks about this from her standpoint of being a mom with a severly autstic kid

    • Tim Berry says:

      Whatever your name is (because it isn’t Marilyn Monroe) I had trouble approving your comment because it has almost nothing to do with the post. Still, I know of problems with overdiagnosis of autism, and it seems like a real issue, so I’m leaving it here. There are a lot better forums than this one for voicing that problem, however. Best of luck to you. Tim.

  • Sherry Gray says:

    Sticky subject, Tim. I believe that news, and journalism, must adapt or die. Given what passes for news these days, I’m guessing they’ve already chosen “die”. On tonight’s #ageop chat on Twitter, we discussed how to monetize the news. Is pay-per-view the answer? I think not. There aren’t enough people left in the world who can distinguish between news and newstainment. For proof, I offer the popularity of Fox as the #1 news channel.

    I wish I could offer an answer, but I think the biggest problem is that the shows passing themselves as news already have the formula. The public eats up what passes for investigative reporting. Nancy Grace. She’s the closest thing we have to an investigative reporter today, and her angle is sheer sensationalism. Is the head dead yet?

    We have opinion passing for news because it’s what we demand. Intellectual shows just don’t pull the ratings. Until we rebel and demand better, whatever gets the ratings rules, and that includes tv, print and the web. There just aren’t enough people like you and I mourning the passing of real investigative reporting. The value of fact over gossip may already be lost.

  • M.F.Machado says:

    True investigative journalism demands journalist specialized in Law.
    As far as any payment for such a work is concerned, it is always safer to write a book on the subject of the investigation and to have it published, and sold, accordingly. There is no way out for journalism, except by way of investigative journalism. This is my opinion.

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