Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nonprofit Investigative Journalism

The article “Group Plans To Provide Investigative Journalism” tells the story of Paul E. Steiger, who was the top editor of The Wall Street Journal for 16 years, and a pair of wealthy Californians who are assembling a group of investigative journalists willing to give away their work to media outlets.

The nonprofit group, Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine in hopes their work will make the strongest impression:

The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.

Nothing quite like this has ever been attempted before and Pro Publica will be something of an experiment by trial and error. Steiger is hopeful as he notes that “It is the deep-dive stuff and the aggressive follow-up that is most challenged in the budget process.”

Pro Publica plans to establish a newsroom in New York City and have 24 journalists along with a dozen other employees and will become a training ground for investigative reporters. Pro Publica is created in the wake of newspapers routinely publishing articles from wire services and subscriptions to major papers’ news services. However, except for fairly routine news wire services articles, the largest newspapers have generally been reluctant to use reporting from other organization. But experts say that “resistance is breaking down as business is squeezed financially, and newspapers make greater use of freelance journalists.”

While I know there are other services on a smaller scale like Pro Publica I have to wonder about the long-term outcome for them. Sure they will be very successful with aspects of news reporting that smaller news rooms don’t have the time or money to spend on, like in-depth and follow-up work, but I have to wonder how much of a living they can make off of that type of news alone. Most newspapers are centered around a local angle so it will be interesting to see the outcome of Pro Publica's success.

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