Investigative Reporting: a thing of the past?

By: Liz Anderson

Where are the Woodward and Bernstein of the 21st century?  Where is the Nellie Bly of this generation?  Where are journalism’s watch-dogs — the investigative reporters?

“There is no question that there are fewer investigative reporters in the U.S. today than there were a few years ago, mirroring the overall loss of journalists at traditional media outlets,” says IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit, quoted in an article by Mary Walton for the American Journalism Review.

Indeed, investigative journalists everywhere are feeling the pinch of a shrinking budget.

In the same American Journalism Review article, Walton reports that, “The membership of Investigative Reporters and Editors fell . . .  to a 10-year low of 3,695 in 2009.”

News editors are looking for places to cut costs.  Cutting investigative reporters is an easy way to save a significant amount of money.  “[T]he most talented journalists and the most highly paid are the investigative  reporters with many years’ experience,” said Robert Rosenthal, the executive director for the Center for Investigative Reporting, in a round-table discussion on PBS Newshour.

Roberta Baskin, the former director of the investigative team for the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., was one of the many investigative journalists laid off.  Ironically, she received the news that she was fired while she was traveling home from New York, after collecting her third journalism award.

In an interview with the American Journalism Society, Baskin had this to say:

Another similar video features Newsday Washington bureau chief, Tom Brune.

But there is some hope for the future of Investigative Reporting — nonprofit investigative news organizations.  An example of a nonprofit investigative organization is ProPublica.

“‘We don’t kid ourselves about how much of the gap we could make up,’ . . . but ProPublica does specifically focus on ‘big, investigative stories,'” said ProPublica’s managing editor Stephen Engelberg in an article found in the magazine “Wired.”

What do you think?  Will nonprofit investigative organizations be enough to keep today’s politicians in check?  Will there ever be another Woodward and Bernstein?  Leave a response below if you can brave the box!

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This entry was posted in Journalism Jobs, Law and ethics, News coverage, Reporting. Bookmark the permalink.

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