Monday, February 2, 2009

The future of investigative journalism

In the rush to embrace the Digital Economy the decline of newspapers and other "mainstream media", is taken by some as a new democracy and reduction in the opinion making power of a few "media barons".

However, as the Toronto Star has noted the collapse of the old media model puts at risk the tradition of investigative journalism. This is the kind of journalism that often rquires an extensive commitment in investment to get the story, deep pockets to fight potential lrgal battles, and often stealth in accessing the whole story before details are revealed.

The Star notes a number of potential scenarios for how to fund this investigative journalism. The first is the suggestion by Nicholas Sarkozy that he will help newspapers by funding every eighteen year old for a subscription for a year to the newspaper of their choice (though in Australia university students can already access very cheap subscriptins). Other models are grants from foundations or a group in the US called ProPublica that is acting as a third party "research house" of stories (a kind of twist on the traditional shared resource newsagency like AAP that mostly distributes event based news).

The other model of course is that familiar in British models of the government funded public broadcaster. There is a feeling in Australia that the years of political attack on the ABC have worn it down and its investigative role is greatly contracted.

The item concludes with an exhortation;

Undoubtedly the list of models will grow. But, in my view, the important need is for the dialogue to begin. At stake could be nothing less than the vibrancy and health of our society.

That might be a bit over the top. But are there other models? Does it matter, can citizen journalism fill the gap?

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