The death of investigative journalism and the role of nonprofits in doing serious journalism

January 22, 2008 | By | Reply More

The death of investigative journalism is not the title of this paper, but it is the context.  Here’s the title:  “The Growing Importance of Nonprofit Journalism,” by Charles Lewis (April, 2007).  The statistics will shock and depress you. That the lack of investigative journalism in the corporate media world is a worldwide phenomenon makes it all the more depressing. What is the long-term consequence?

James Madison warned that, “A people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”7 If that is true, it would seem that we have an extraordinary number of unarmed Americans, less and less knowledgeable about public affairs or news. To what extent can a democracy ostensibly “of the people, by the people and for the people” exist without an informed citizenry?

Luckily, this paper does not end on a pessimistic note:

The often unnoticed irony is that amidst the current, deteriorating state of original, investigative and otherwise independent journalism in America, right now there are new, very energizing forces at play – talented and highly motivated journalists, mindful of the stakes involved; entrepreneurial leaders with vision, a commitment to community and financial wherewithal; new media platforms and technologies revolutionizing the means and cost of production; and every day, more and more signs of what is possible journalistically, particularly with the new social networking connectivity of the Web and related, constantly improving technologies.

Joseph Pulitzer once said, “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”

All they need is a public-spirited, trustworthy place to work.

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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