Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Investigative journalism is possible on the web—and the results are available to readers and bloggers and even to newspapers
by Larry Geller
Just a quick post on ProPublica, a website I’ve been following more and more as our local news sources dry up. From their website, propublica.org:
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. We strive to foster change through exposing exploitation of the weak by the strong and the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
Next check out this statement
© Copyright 2009 Pro Publica Inc.
You can republish our articles for free, if you credit us, link to us, and don't edit our material or sell it separately. (We're licensed under Creative Commons, which provides the legal details.)
Guess what—even our local newspaper could use these stories, assuming they wanted to. Remember that editors do pick from a range of AP stories, for example, and what we get in the paper reflects their choices. Choice=bias, of course, and everyone has their own. You, me, the editors. Heinlein’s “fair witness" doesn’t exist. But more than selection bias, we remain uninformed as pages and column inches first shrink then disappear entirely.
As the papers downsize, more readers decide not to renew their subscriptions. For some reason, publishers have not chosen to give us “better” at least, if it has to be “less.” Publishers seem surprisingly slow to change their stripes.
No, I don’t expect local papers to have overseas bureaus any longer, or investigative reporters with a reach as far as Washington. Here is where there is a possibility, if finances work out, for the web to replace yet another function that newspapers used to almost exclusively provide. But still, they can incorporate the work of web journalists if they chose to do so.
This is the article that drew me to ProPublica this morning. It was mentioned on Democracy Now.
The list of missing memos is extensive and follows the text block above. Many of those memos are at the heart of whether action might be taken against former Bush administration officials for their actions over the past eight years.
ProPublica’s persistence in getting this information is only one of the projects they have going at the moment. I strongly recommend that you check out their website.
Maybe one day our shrinking daily newspapers will consider picking up worthwhile articles regardless of their source, if reputable. The blogosphere often seems to run by quoting the work of professional newspaper journalists. Wouldn’t the newspapers benefit if they took a similar approach and printed articles that originated on the web?