Thursday, November 03, 2011

Investigative Journalism

The television program 'The Hamster Wheel' recently ran a skit about the sad state of investigative journalism. It showed a journalist standing next to a fax machine, waiting for the morning's stories to be sent in, then calling the numbers at the bottom of the pages to ask a couple of questions.

Sadly, judging by most of the articles in the mainstream media, the comedians have it right. Genuine investigative work by journalists has become a rarity. The reality is that journalists are expected to produce ever increasing outputs in a way that meets the requirements of the twenty four hour news cycle. The media have become better than ever at getting a story published quickly, but they have done so at the expense of analysis, fact checking and investigation. This is bad news for the role of the public sphere in democracy.

So is there any good news? Well, perhaps. Hope comes in many forms, but two of them in this case may be blogs and QandA.

The ABC's panel show where the audience, including viewers using twitter and other forms of communication, ask questions of politicians and other persons of perceived importance. The quality of the questions asked is not exactly Kerry O'Brian standard, but the discussions that ensue are often quite interesting and allow various perspectives to be heard, even if there is little chance of anyone actually changing their mind. The show certainly contributes to democracy. The problem is though, the participants are almost exclusively reliant on other mainstream media for information.

Blogs may go some way toward addressing this. At their best, bloggers can go to some lengths to bring important events and ideas to the attention of their readers. Fellow blogger Mark Glaser has been kind enough to list some historically significant examples in this post, at least in the USA. The blogosphere has further expanded since then, so let us hope that investigative blog journalism has done so with it.

Bloggers may not have as much in the way of funding and resources as mainstream media companies do. However, what they do have, is the time and freedom to do research. Some of us do not have as much as we would like, but certainly more time and freedom than a full time journalist. Ideally, there should be investigative journalists with both resources and time, but they are few (perhaps they all work for the ABC) and in the mean time us bloggers will have to do the best we can. This is more a commentary blog than a news blog, but perhaps I may start a news blog too, since there is clearly a need for one. If I do, I will update it weekly, not daily, so as to allow time for proper investigation.

1 comment:

  1. Today Tonight are going to expose the supermarkets' price fixing. Apparently they're having things on special, but at higher prices than they're meant to be. That's pretty investigative.