To many people, watchdog reporting is synonymous with investigative reporting, specifically, ferreting out secrets. But there’s another, maybe even more crucial form of watchdog reporting, especially in this age of relentless public relations and spin. It involves reporting what may well be in plain sight, contrasting that with what officials in government and other positions of power say, rebuffing and rebutting misinformation, and sometimes even taking a position on what the facts suggest is the right solution.
Daniel Froomkin, Truth or Consequences: Where is Watchdog Journalism Today?, Nieman Reports
The piece includes these words of words of wisdom from Murrey Marder, former Washington Post reporter and founder of the Nieman Watchdog Project:
Watchdog journalism is by no means just occasional selective, hard-hitting investigative reporting. It starts with a state of mind, accepting responsibility as a surrogate for the public, asking penetrating questions at every level, from the town council to the state house to the White House, in corporate offices, in union halls and in professional offices and all points in-between.
We don’t have a content crisis; we don’t have a news crisis; we have an accountability reporting crisis.
Investigative journalism is not cheap,” Sullivan says. Investigative reporting units require a higher caliber of personnel. In addition, they don’t produce the same number of stories as reporters dedicated to daily coverage. “It’s quality over quantity.
TVNewsCheck reports that Scripps television is bringing investigative journalism back to the news room. Pioneering this effort is Bob Sullivan, Scripps Television VP of Content, who recognizes the importance of watch dog journalism to an informed society.
While adding investigative reporters to the newsroom, Scripps also sent 64 employees — such as producers, multimedia reporters and traditional print reporters — to June’s annual Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.
Says IRE’s Mark Horvit on the significance of Scripps commitment to investigative reporting,”We’re still not where we were several years ago, and we are certainly not where we need to be, but there are positive and hopeful trends and a lot of great work being done.”
Diana Marszalek, TVNewsCheck, Scripps Bucks Investigative Reporting Trend.
Today’s honor caps a series of awards for ProPublica this year, including two George Polk Awards, one for radio (with NPR) for our series on brain injuries to our troops, another for television (with Frontline) for our reporting on police violence in New Orleans after Katrina; a National Magazine Award finalist nod for our story on dialysis facilities; the American Society of News Editors Batten Medal for sustained reporting on the New Orleans police story; two Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, one for the dialysis story and accompanying database, the other for innovation for our “Dollars for Docs” series; and two awards from the Society for News Design for our news applications.
Paul Steiger, Editor in Chief, ProPublica, writing today about the non-profit’s Pulitzer win for National Reporting. ProPublica reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein won the award for a series on Wall Street bankers who enriched (or tried to) themselves at the expense of their clients and — in some cases — their firms.
This is the first time a digital only series has won the Pulitzer.
Congratulations to an exceptional organization for showing what a non-profit can do in journalism.
Without much notice, some dedicated editors, reporters, news entrepreneurs and sponsors are refusing to lament the collapse of an industry. Instead, working from a nonprofit model, they have for decades been breaking important stories, and in just the last few years have made striking gains in numbers, recognition and impact.
Great reporting is still being done by the traditional media, but there is very little of it. It is the nonprofit model… that shows the most promise. More than anything else I can think of, it will serve — is already serving — to hold leaders accountable and keep important issues in public view.
Nonprofit news organizations are important in another respect. The Watergate era made many people see journalism as honest, worthwhile work. They don’t today. The nonprofit model, as it grows and strengthens and stays independent, could bring that spirit back and draw bright, idealistic young people into the profession.
And wouldn’t that be nice.
People from the digital world are always saying we don’t need journalists at all because information is everywhere and there in no barrier to entry. But these documents provide a good answer to that question. Even though journalists didn’t dig them out, there is a great deal of value in their efforts to explain and examine them. Who else would have had the energy or resources to do what these news organization have done?