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The death of the reporter
November 14, 2007 11:44 AM   Subscribe

The internet is killing the reporter, or at least the investigative journalist. So says David Leigh, the Guardian's esteemed dirty digger. But how right is he? Doesn't "the powerful global conversation", to quote the Cluetrain Manifesto, give investigative journalism new hope. Rather than be centred around the reporter, can communities of interest unite to share and uncover the sort of information that was once the sole property of reporters like Mr Leigh?
posted by MrMerlot (49 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Internet is killing the investigative journalist the same way the Internet is killing the RIAA and MPAA--by making a better product at a lower cost.
posted by DU at 11:48 AM on November 14, 2007


Where is Intelligent Design when you need it?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:48 AM on November 14, 2007


Well it's not exactly like the media pool has been brimming with serious investigative journalists lately.
posted by chef_boyardee at 11:51 AM on November 14, 2007


Well maybe instead of just trying to trick long suffering guardian readers into eating their investigative broccoli in order to get their sport and gossip desert, people will fund or sell investigative journalism directly:

Foundations Start Project to Spur Investigative News Reporting.

Some of us like broccoli and are willing to pay for it.
posted by shothotbot at 11:52 AM on November 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


But aren't alternatives there already. I'm thinking McSpotlight and Oh My News, can anyone think of other examples?
posted by MrMerlot at 11:54 AM on November 14, 2007


making a better product at a lower cost.

Examples?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:57 AM on November 14, 2007


The cause of reporting is so poorly served by corporate media giants that frankly I think we'll be better served if they get out of the business and leave the reporting of fact to people who aren't afraid of it hurting their bottom line.

I'm sorry if well-paid reporting positions will be in shorter supply as a result of this trend (a trend which predates the popular adoption of the internet by a good long time, by the way), but if the price of that salary is that you're as often as not forbidden to tell the truth as you know it, your loss is a net gain for the world.

The truth is that media consolidation has been killing reporting for a long time; the internet is actually just trying to fill in the gap. He's mistaken the solution for the culprit.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Examples?

Have you ever visited the Internet? YouTube gets more detailed and in-depth than 90% of the reports even on NPR, let alone (fully) corporate media. (Don't even get me started on the idiotic ARE SWINGSETS POISONING YOUR CHILDRENS' MINDS FILM AT 11 local news.)
posted by DU at 12:01 PM on November 14, 2007


Good riddance. The Investigative Journalists who are whining about losing their jobs should ask themselves what they were investigating back in late 2002 and early 2003.

Fuck you, you pathetic, self-serving, sycophantic apparatchiks.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:02 PM on November 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Dagnabbit, I accidentally omitted a big chunk:

I don't see it as being similar to the RIAA or the MPAA - yes, they are losing relevance/authority/money to the internets, but to my mind the issue there is distribution of content, not production (yet). While it is heartening to see legitimate web-based journalism grow, 'better product at a lower cost' doesn't strike me as being a particularly feasible plan for journalism beyond local, niche reportage.

On preview: YouTube is supposed to be your chastening example? Care to narrow that down a smidge?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:10 PM on November 14, 2007


YouTube is supposed to be your chastening example? Care to narrow that down a smidge?

YouTube is my facetious example. Think of a subject you are knowledgeable of, then listen to/watch/read a randomly selected investigative report on that topic. If you don't laugh out loud at least once, I'll eat my hat. Happens on the time to me even on NPR. I'm just like...what...where....this isn't even wrong.

...but to my mind the issue there is distribution of content, not production (yet).

Actually, YouTube is a non-facetious example of this. There are quite a few shows there that are pretty good, as well as many one-off productions. Take the flint-knapping thing from this morning. Not an investigative thing, obviously, but even the venerable NOVA would manage to stretch the first 2 minutes of the first flintknapping video into an overwrought hour-long special with lasers and swelling music that left the viewer little more informed than they started.
posted by DU at 12:19 PM on November 14, 2007


(Don't even get me started on the idiotic ARE SWINGSETS POISONING YOUR CHILDRENS' MINDS FILM AT 11 local news.)

As opposed to the 9/11 truthers? Neither side has a lockdown on kookery and scare tactics.

Take a look at reddit. A mishmash of histronics, most days it looks it was written by the headline writer for the NY Sun.

And as for:

The Internet is killing the investigative journalist the same way the Internet is killing the RIAA and MPAA--by making a better product at a lower cost.

I'll believe that when people download something besides top 40 songs and studio produced movies.
posted by zabuni at 12:19 PM on November 14, 2007


As opposed to the 9/11 truthers? Neither side has a lockdown on kookery and scare tactics.

It's easy to find stupid stuff on the Internet. It's hard to find non-stupid stuff on TV.

I'll believe that when people download something besides top 40 songs and studio produced movies.

Done and done.
posted by DU at 12:22 PM on November 14, 2007


But what alternatives are there?
posted by MrMerlot at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2007


If I want to know what's going on I'll read Talking Points Memo or three dozen other equally excellent blogs which rarely source traditional media other than to point to and mock something timid or lame they did.

If I want to take a trip up Katie Couric's colon, I'll watch the Nightly News. I don't even need them to learn about Britney Spears' latest bugfuckery, the web's got that covered more than well enough too. That doesn't leave much except the aforementioned colon-ride and Al Roker's stomach-stapling; they've got a lock on that stuff and if ever I find I'm not getting enough of the wrong end of TV personalities' alimentary canals I'll sure know where to go.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:34 PM on November 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


(I'm going to leave the further handling of this thread to the apparently-quite-capable Mr _Spiggott. Kudos to you and your intestinal spelunking, sir.)
posted by DU at 12:40 PM on November 14, 2007


Oh noes! Where will I get my regurgitated corporate PR?
posted by telstar at 12:45 PM on November 14, 2007


I think legitamate reporting is under seige and the cacophony on the web is of the same basic source as the smarmy opinion newsbite schtick. Both of those have eroded legitimate journalism. Would the Watergate investigation even be possible today? And indeed, on the web it would be conflated with aliens, LaRouche, Jews, etc. etc. etc.
Not that there aren’t legitimate sources of journalism on the web, but those are subject to the same effect.
In essence, it’s not a matter of print or television or indeed the form of the media that at all matters - the question is one of legitimate objective news versus opinioneering - in whatever form.
Reporters are being squeezed out of the equation because of the belief that objectivity is somehow impossible - even from a disinterested (but concerned) bystander. Somehow we believe we can get a straight answer from some anonymous guy on the web or from some gigantic corporation and better yet, for free.
As far as I know the tacit deal is you recieve news that is relevent to you and take a look at some ads for products you might buy from people who pay us to bring this useful news to you. You’re reading the ads because news that is relevent to you, that you might make decision on, is attached to it.
In some places useful news is still sent out, but mostly, yes, it’s been dropped for synergistic media (such as what Brittany is up to) which is basically more advertising in disguise.
Even the pretense of being useful has been dropped. Where it’s not advertising, it’s propaganda, where it’s not propaganda it’s opinionated.
The guy who poses a threat to everyone - the big corporation, the web partisan hack - everyone, is the guy with integrity who gets paid for telling it like it is.
Which is why we don’t see those guys much anymore. Which is why we’ve seen less and less of that guy. People are buying in more and more (and literally - buying in) to the idea that their own preconceptions are something they want fed back to them rather than useful information.
So if the folks who employ the guy with integrity want that guy out, the people on the web don’t want that guy because they have their agenda (or, hey, they can do it just as gooder, rite?), the audiance doesn’t want to hear anything dissonant, of course that guy is going the way of the dinosaurs.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:55 PM on November 14, 2007 [2 favorites]



Talking Points Memo and every other blog relies on traditional journalists-- either directly through hiring and paying some themselves or indirectly by cannibalizing content gathered by journalists and commenting on it.

If there was no traditional media, the blogs would rapidly run out of stuff to comment on-- or would have to hire more reporters to get off their butts and go out in the world and report, rather than sitting around pontificating.

This can't be done by people in pajamas in their spare time-- real journalism requires the kind of time that other real jobs do.

Investigative journalism is expensive and often tedious. Some of the tedious bits can be overcome via crowdsourcing (a la the famous example of the prosecutor scandal which was understood via people taking on bits of a big data dump) but the synthesis and analysis and presentation simply cannot.

There's a reason "written by committee" is not a compliment.

And as a beleagured investigative journalist myself who could do a heck of a lot more with more resources, I find the lack of understanding of the need for this work bewildering.

For example, for the last five years or so I have been investigating the billion dollar "troubled teen" tough-love industry. If I had not been paid by a book advance and a fellowship, I would not have been able to do the hundreds of interviews, tons of historical research, legal research and travel because I would have had to do something else to make a living. This work has resulted (finally!) in recent Congressional hearings and will hopefully end in legislation that will rein in the abuses rather than legitimizing the industry.

But until I managed to scrounge up enough resources to write my book, no one had ever put the history of the industry together and shown that it had no scientific basis in a comprehensible, systematic way-- all prior exposes looked at one particular organization and the problems associated with it, rather than the systemic problem of the ideology of the industry itself and the lack of regulation and lack of rights of kids in these programs. And that wasn't because people didn't care-- it was because amateurs do not have the time and resources (and often, don't have the talent) that people who are paid to do this work have.

I know this will sound arrogant and self-promoting, but I-- and the dozens of kids and parents who have personally contacted me to let me know how this industry affected them and how exposing it has helped-- believe this kind of journalism is valuable and critical to a functional democracy.

And it is frightening to me to see all the comments about how it is not necessary, that amateurs can do everything, that no one needs to get paid to gather and analyze information in a way that the public can understand.

Has the mainstream media failed to do enough investigative reporting in terms of the war, etc? Absolutely, but that's not because investigative journalism isn't something that requires funding and support.

In fact, the people who support investigative journalism are, by and large, the people who *have* exposed the stuff that has come to light about corruption, etc... they are not the problem!
posted by Maias at 1:21 PM on November 14, 2007 [14 favorites]


Blogs are engaging in journalism. Reporters are engaging in stenography.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:30 PM on November 14, 2007


Good riddance. The Investigative Journalists who are whining about losing their jobs should ask themselves what they were investigating back in late 2002 and early 2003.

Fuck you, you pathetic, self-serving, sycophantic apparatchiks.


Ah yes. The Guardian, that bastion of support for the invasion of Iraq, unquestioning regurgiator of the official line.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:43 PM on November 14, 2007


Indeed. I hear they even publish stuff by that Greg Palast guy sometimes. Talk about someone who loves the great taste of Bush's asshole!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2007


Good riddance. The Investigative Journalists who are whining about losing their jobs should ask themselves what they were investigating back in late 2002 and early 2003.

Fuck you, you pathetic, self-serving, sycophantic apparatchiks.


He is an editor for the Guardian. The Guardian. A British Newspaper. A left-wing anti-war pro-labour environmentally concerned progressive newspaper.

Why does investigative reporting fare so poorly in the U.S.? Look in a mirror. You don't want facts. You all want ideological ammunition that you can spray indiscriminately, truth and bystanders are just collateral damage.

So fandango, while investigative reporters may be fucked so are you. Part of the reason why they're fucked is because they have unthinking emotion driven ideological zeolot readers like you who don't even realize who they are attacking. You're fucked because because like any true zeolot you must also, in your rage, kill your own allies.
posted by srboisvert at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2007


“shown that it had no scientific basis in a comprehensible, systematic way-- all prior exposes looked at one particular organization and the problems associated with it, rather than the systemic problem of the ideology of the industry itself and the lack of regulation and lack of rights of kids in these programs”

That’s what YOU think.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2007



Me and the GAO and the NIH ;-) and every expert without industry ties who has looked into it.
posted by Maias at 2:06 PM on November 14, 2007


So Maias, what do you think? I agree with you that I took aim at corporate media and shot investigative journalists, who are not the same thing -- or not yet. So how do we get investigative journalists back into paying jobs that they can perform properly? Reregulate media, restoring the Fairness Doctrine and the limits on the size and market share of any given owner's media holdings?

That'd be my choice. I agree with what you've said, that we will always need investigative journalism and that it suffers if its better practitioners can't make a living at it. However, I also maintain that it isn't the web that's killing it; people are turning to bloggers because what they're getting from traditional sources isn't even watchable anymore, let alone journalism.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2007


posted by srboisvert You're fucked because because like any true zeolot you must also, in your rage, kill your own allies.

Oh, horse shit. Since you have no idea what I watch or read, you can shut the fuck up with your asinine declarations. If Investigative Journalists were doing their job, Michael Moore wouldn't be doing it for them. But thank goodness Carl Monday is on the job, fearlessly investigating people masturbating in the library.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:10 PM on November 14, 2007


Blogs are engaging in journalism. Reporters are engaging in stenography.

People who talk like this, in my experience, don't know any reporters.

So the blogs are the future, hey? Aw, bullshit. Blogs can do connecting-the-dots type analysis, and sometimes come up with interesting insights (how come all these Attorneys General who declined to prosecute Democrats got fired?). Blogs can also fact-check claims with massed attention (the Bush National Guard memos).

But investigative reporting? Almost never. Because for blogs to use something, it has to be on the internet, and I hate to break this to you but: The secret lives of governments, corporations and social groups that shape our world are mainly not posted on the web.

The secret lives and secret decisions and shitty things that powerful people and institutions do to enrich themselves at the expense of the powerless will almost always remain a secret, unless a reporter drags them into the light. (Or an official government inquiry does, which almost never happens these days.)

Journalism is adding new stuff to the public understanding. Most blogs do not do that; they add opinion or sometimes draw connections between pre-existing reporting that they did not do.

Talking Points Memo has reporters. They talk to sources, dig up documents that were not part of the public sphere and add to the public understanding. They are in the distinct minority of blogs that add new knowledge to the public sphere.

There is no doubt that journalism and its institutions are flawed. But they ought to be supported with a continuing vocal, critical eye, for we need them now more than ever.

The organization that abetted Judy Miller's blatant propaganda for the White House in "justifying" the Iraq War (and prints Michael Gordon's dubious blame-Iran-for-Iraq-bombs stories) also contributed some of the most crucial understandings of just how badly the Bush Administration has violated laws and undermined American democracy.

Joseph Miller's op-ed that blew the whistle on the Niger yellowcake lies in Bush's state-of-the-Union speech (and the subsequent indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury)? That was in The New York Times.

How do we know what we know about the illegal secret wiretapping of all Americans? The New York Times.

How did we learn that the CIA set up a network of black sites to torture prisoners out of sight of Americans? The Washington Post.

Murders of prisoners in Afghanistan prison camps? The New York Times.

Abu Ghraib? The New Yorker, and others.

The disgusting wholesale looting of the U.S. Treasury by Iraq contractors? Numerous, but the L.A. Times had the lead.

The subjugation of the federal government to Dick Cheney? Numerous, but the Washington Post has done the best.

The horrible ongoing bloody nightmare in Iraq that could likely be the defining American blunder of a generation? How do you know the facts on the ground there? It's reporters, mainly Iraqis at this point, risking their lives to tell the truth about what's happening.

Yes, reporters can be awful. Yes, the lapdog servility of the Tim Russerts of the world is a disgrace. Yes, so many reports are shallower or more simple-minded than they should be.

To me, that means journalism needs to be repaired. Now more than ever, we need it to work.
posted by sacre_bleu at 2:10 PM on November 14, 2007 [7 favorites]


Oh, horse shit. Since you have no idea what I watch or read, you can shut the fuck up with your asinine declarations. If Investigative Journalists were doing their job, Michael Moore wouldn't be doing it for them. But thank goodness Carl Monday is on the job, fearlessly investigating people masturbating in the library.

Not many people can put a gun in their mouth and pull the trigger twice. Respect.
posted by srboisvert at 2:20 PM on November 14, 2007


He is an editor for the Guardian. The Guardian. A British Newspaper. A left-wing anti-war pro-labour environmentally concerned progressive newspaper.

A left-wing anti-war pro-labour environmentally concerned progressive newspaper that is owned by a charitable foundation, and therefore does not need to put the profits of its shareholders above its mission to inform.

Why does investigative reporting fare so poorly in the U.S.?

It isn't just the US either. If anything, the size of the USA actually means you're in some ways served rather better than the rest of us are. At least a journalist can get the sort of advance that can free them up for a year or two to work on a book length piece of research. Here, they'd be lucky to get a couple of months salary, so you either do it out of love, or not at all.

But your lowest-common-denominator thesis is clearly a large part of it, srboisvert, because profit does come from what sells most, the death of investigative journalism isn't really a new phenomenon. It's a very expensive thing to do properly and as a result, has been in decline for many years now. Consequently, even our flagship investigative documentary tv series, programmes that in the sixties and seventies would spend up to a year giving a small team the freedom to follow a story where it led, are now pushed further and further towards banal, cheap, Michael Moore style door-stepping ambushes, rather than taking the time to research and explain a complex story.

But there's something about the industry as well, that today seems to be happy to commission and publish that kind of partisan, crowd pleasing garbage that once it would never have countenanced. Because the people who work in the industry are often just as seduced by the trivial and the quest for the fast buck as their proprietors are.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2007


That’s what YOU think.

And that's the single most bizzare thing about US journalists from the point of view of an outsider. In an attempt to kow-tow to your ideologically divided society, they seem to think that 'truth' or 'objectivity' means nothing more than presenting competing ideological dogma in the name of some nonsensical 'balance', thereby perpetuating the myth that everything is just as important or as valid as everything else, and thereby extending the sway of the moral and intellectual relativism that's eroding your public discourse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:42 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I work as a journalist and I do not share the same views as the author of the article. The Internet was made for investigative journalism -- it really can take the best elements of print, television, and radio and create something far better than what we had before.

There are other problems in the profession -- media owners don't "get" the Internet so they treat it the same way as the treat the medium they own which makes no sense. They also don't understand the mindsets of younger audiences who reveal more about themselves on their social sites and blogs that most journalists would ever dare reveal about themselves. Also, the stories and angles journalists use in their stories are clearly made for an older audience (e.g., "Are your children safe at school?" versus "Are you safe at school?") That's a divide that the MSM has yet to properly address.

The over-saturation of celebrity puffery and gossip, repetition, the dissemination of misinformation, and the decline in the number of controversial investigative pieces has also lead to problems in the profession.

We have had these problems haunting journalism for a very long time. The profession needs a reality check and an overhaul if it wants to survive in a modern age.

So instead of fearing and blaming the Internet, journalists should learn to embrace the best and most power medium that they have at their disposal.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:47 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


“Me and the GAO and the NIH ;-) and every expert without industry ties who has looked into it”

Yeah, well, that could be ‘shopped.

(the old pseudo-skeptic hackneyed response to reply to any evidence you wish to deny with “That’s what YOU think” - is not as ubiquitous as I’d thought apparently, I should have upped the sarcasm indicator. Hopefully “‘shopped” works)

Plus it’s an old joke. The basic form:
A man was wandering around a fairground and
he happened to see a fortune-tellers tent. Thinking
it would be good for a laugh, he went inside and
sat down. "Ah....." said the woman as she
gazed into her crystal ball. "I see you are the
father of two children." "That's what you think",
the man laughed. I'm the father of THREE children."
The woman grinned and said, "That's what YOU think!"
posted by Smedleyman at 2:47 PM on November 14, 2007


(although PeterMcDermott seems to have caught it)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:51 PM on November 14, 2007


Nice point Alexandra, but where are the current examples? In theory, I agree with you, but i don't know where to find it. Can you?
posted by MrMerlot at 2:53 PM on November 14, 2007


Peter McDermott, the sad thing is is that even in that useless definition of balance -- giving equal time to positions that bear scrutiny and positions that don't -- they're still not balanced. They will instantly balance any assertion from the Left (or the Center, which is the new "Left") with the competing assertion from the Right, but they don't go the other way. Sunday morning panels with five chairs on the set are stocked with either five right-wing Administration-supporting loudmouths, or four of them and a nerveless centrist from public radio. They "balanced" Gore and Kerry with a demeaning, low-expectation load of piffle about Bush that took not one look at his record or his apparent comprehension of the world around him or even the words he reads off of the papers he's handed.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:00 PM on November 14, 2007


"Legitimate" journalism, such as it was, by and large had become silly mindless corporate propagandistic nonsense long before there was an Interweb, thus returning to its roots as silly corporate nonsense. (That odd sound you hear is a muffled crowing laugh of triumph emerging from the grave of W.R. Hearst.)

I remember vividly most of the people I knew being unable to stomach the crappiness of the Chicago Tribune as far back as the late 80s or even earlier. Except for a couple of papers of record and the network nightly broadcasts, the Lite Infotainment trend was well underway as soon as "journalists" like Geraldo Rivera and Barbara Walters got airtime. Local news broadcasts have always been at best mediocre.

But why be sad? We're talking about a discourse genre with only about a 200-year total history to date, of which there were maybe 20 decent years in the mid-20th century, so no big loss, in the grand scheme.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:08 PM on November 14, 2007


"The Internet is killing the investigative journalist the same way the Internet is killing the RIAA and MPAA--by making a better product at a lower cost."

RONG!

The internet is killing the investigative journalist the same way that factory farming nearly killed off family farms—by making a worse product far more abundant.

The big shift came after the media ownership laws were relaxed under Reagan (and the FCC was just considering doing the same again, today), and when conglomerates realized that you could make real money doing it (which is similar to the decline of record labels).

But investigative journalism has been slowly dying for years—those WILL PEANUTS EAT YOUR BABIES tv stories aren't investigative journalism proper, they're part of the problem.
posted by klangklangston at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2007


Investigative journalism had troubles before t'internet, and t'internet won't kill investigative journalism. It can do it some damage, but investigative journalism has led a precarious existence since its invention. Its natural state is to be perpetually under threat, because it's so challenging to so many entrenched interests and because those who do it tend to be fairly edgy, suspicious, borderline-paranoid types who look over their shoulders a lot, and because it's horribly expensive for newspapers who experience, mostly, intangible benefits from it. Those factors have always been in play to a greater or lesser extent. The other big problem with investigative journalism is the audience. Odd fact: most people do not want to read investigative journalism. They might like to know that it is going on, but when it gets to participation their eyes glaze over.

I like blogs, but I'll believe they can do investigative journalism when one of them breaks, alone, something the size of the BAE scandal that the Guardian did this year.
posted by WPW at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2007


your lowest-common-denominator thesis is clearly a large part of it, srboisvert, because profit does come from what sells most, the death of investigative journalism isn't really a new phenomenon.

That wasn't really my thesis. I was just reacting in my own OTT way to Fandango's crazy idea that because investigative journalism in the US failed in the run up to war there should be less or none of it.

I'm old enough to have lived through several other deaths of investigative journalism.

Consequently, even our flagship investigative documentary tv series, programmes that in the sixties and seventies would spend up to a year giving a small team the freedom to follow a story where it led, are now pushed further and further towards banal, cheap, Michael Moore style door-stepping ambushes, rather than taking the time to research and explain a complex story.

My favourite feature of British investigatory tele-journalism is that they are always going somewhere and showing it to you. They show the drive out to the office. They show the talking head walking up and down halls. They show getting on a flight. Once you notice it you will be constantly distracted by it much like the West Wing's walk-and-talk footage. You'll also find yourself wondering if that hour long expose could have been half an hour or less.

One of the consequences of the internet is that I now place more stock in individuals than in newspapers and magazines. I don't read the new yorker so much as I read several people who write for the new yorker. I don't read wired anymore but I do read several people who write for them.

I think is a development will make for better quality work because people will have to manage their reputations very carefully but I think it will make doing expensive work difficult until there is an economic model to support it.
posted by srboisvert at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2007


posted by WPW I like blogs, but I'll believe they can do investigative journalism when one of them breaks, alone, something the size of the BAE scandal that the Guardian did this year.

Well hey, didn't Matt Drudge break the Monica Lewinsky story before anyone else? /sarcasm

posted by srboisvert I was just reacting in my own OTT way to Fandango's crazy idea that because investigative journalism in the US failed in the run up to war there should be less or none of it.

Way to misrepresent what I said, you twit.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2007


I don't see it as an either/or thing. There are good blogs and bad blogs, and there's good journalism and bad journalism. The mainstream American press has really fallen down over the job throughout Bush's administration, and its lack of inquisitiveness deserves some of the blame for the invasion of Iraq.

I like to read the Washington Post's online chats, and the reporters often get snippy and defensive about blogs, which is kind of annoying because the commentaries are usually calling them out on legitimate issues. Journalists really need to get over the loser-in-pajamas blogger stereotype.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:34 PM on November 14, 2007



The Internet *is* killing investigative journalism by killing newspapers which are still the main purveyors of it. It is killing newspapers because the advertising and circulation they rely on are going to gawker, etc. instead. It is also killing it by a model in which the people who do the actual work that brings people to the site--ie, writing the content of blogs-- typically do not get paid for doing that.

Ultimately, I believe that bloggers with an audience will work out how to get paid and cut out or at least get paid decently by the middle people who are currently profiting from their work, so that will help some. Once you get paid for writing, you then have the time to do reporting.

Also, models like that of the Guardian and the new foundation that is going to hire a bunch of investigative journalists are a good start. And big newspapers will work out how to profit from the web and still do decent work.

But this won't happen unless people realize the value of good investigative journalism and actively work to support it-- and until people realize that we need more in-depth work that analyzes all the stuff that happens really fast, rather than another quick reaction to it.

I think one of the reasons that the Bush administration was able to do so many radical things without each one becoming a huge deal was that the press was so busy reacting to each individual thing on its own, it didn't stop to take a larger look at the pattern.

Arianna Huffington said that the mainstream media has ADD and the bloggers have OCD-- but we really need a bit more OCD in the sense of actually following through a story and banging on about it till something happens. Watergate these days would have been a one-week story and no one would have realized how serious it was if the Washington Post didn't follow up and follow up and follow up.

Now, we get scandal after scandal-- each one deserving massive follow up-- but it doesn't lead to any change so people just turn the page and the reporters don't get to continue to pursue it.

Some interesting thoughts about this "age of frozen scandal" are here.
posted by Maias at 3:41 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


posted by Maias Now, we get scandal after scandal-- each one deserving massive follow up-- but it doesn't lead to any change so people just turn the page and the reporters don't get to continue to pursue it.

Sounds like the fault lies with lazy reporters, not readers.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:50 PM on November 14, 2007


Leigh seems mistaken about the cause, but seems pretty dead-on to me about the consequences. The corporatization of media and media monopoly were killing the investigative reporter long before the word blogger was ever coined. Investigative reporting is not profitable. It's certainly not sustainable by ad revenue, because advertisers really love to pull their support when you put their abuses under the spotlight. And it's really, really, really not sustainable when you're part of a mega-corporation with tentacles in every profitable market, profitable culture and profitable political realm imaginable.
"It also lies in the preservation of media outlets that are themselves powerful."
This is an interesting idea that I haven't seen on Metafilter yet. Without a legal department, who is going to support you and let you continue your work in the face of purposeful chilling effect lawsuits? Who's going to keep your job open when you return from jail after violating a subpoena while protecting a source? Who's going to fund freedom of speech cases all the way to the Supreme Court? Who's going to carry on a justice crusade after you've been politically assassinated? Who's going to fight the court order to shut down your web servers, or hire enough bandwidth capacity to protect them from vigilante DOSers?

The 2007 truth is that media corporations pick and choose these battles in their own favor. The future truth, according to Leigh, is that media companies will be too small and segregated to continue the good fight in any capacity. The non-profit investigator solution is another interesting one, but I have yet to see a non-profit that didn't have its own funding struggles and non-profits are no more immune to conflicts of interest than anybody else.

Progressive movements of today from open source programming to anti-war protesters to blogging are super wary of adopting hierarchies of control. This entails a trade-off, though. There's no head to cut off, so the powers that be can't just assassinate the leader and call it a day, but there's also no vision and no fulcrum for leverage. In the case of media monopoly, they cut off the head by buying out individual media outlets one by one. The Internet is filling the gaps, but it's ain't no Fourth Estate. It's impossible for the powerful to kill outright, but it's also too diluted to cause them much trouble.
posted by Skwirl at 4:08 PM on November 14, 2007


One of the things I love most about Blogs is the complete cacaphony, the riot if you will, of differing opinions and takes other people have on any given topic. It's almost hilarious. I can almost always walk away having learned something new or seen something from a completely new perspective. To touch other people using their minds, in a way unavailable before...
posted by AngryVICTIM at 9:07 PM on November 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Dont' touch me, OK? Just, don't touch.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:54 AM on November 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


My comments (and tortured metaphor) about The Guardian above were mainly jokey. I bow to no man in my admiration for The Guardian.

But I am of two minds about the serious issues being teased out in this thread. Let be be clear and say I agree that investigative reporting should be done by experienced professionals. I am less interested in who employs them, and would point to, as others have, Talking Points Memo as an example of a blog doing solid reporting. And I do think that if distribution of content is free then it makes sense to allow people to subscribe to subject ala carte. This comes down to, as was pointed out above, do people want to pay more for good food or less for bad food. My instincts are to give people more choice.

On the other hand, one of the things you are paying a newspaper for is editorial selection, to pick out the stories in areas you don't know well and letting you know a given story is important by putting it on the front page.

If only there were some site were people I sort of trust pick out interesting posts from the rest of the web.
posted by shothotbot at 6:44 AM on November 15, 2007


“The future truth, according to Leigh, is that media companies will be too small and segregated to continue the good fight in any capacity.” - Skwirl

Good point.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:12 PM on November 15, 2007


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