Sunday, April 5, 2009

A good home for investigative journalism

Atlanta Unfiltered is a good example of the journalism watchdog role continuing and adapting in the face of the changing media venue. The site and others like it are sure to be a part of the future of journalism. Likely reporters will continue to create niche sites, including some that specialize in investigative reporting, as they find traditional media venues offering less or unable to continue to employ them in the areas they specialize in.

Online sites are the perfect vehicle for upstart investigative reporting as the overhead is low and the writer can focus on specific stories without specific time frames or deadlines, as investigative pieces can take time to flesh out. As the sites develop, the more popular sites will likely grow and become more slick and user friendly. One could envision such sites growing in readership and then being bought out by bigger media venues, as happens with other popular online sites.

I think we will see more reporter operated investigative sites develop and I think it is a good thing. The worst problem I could think of is the development of sites that operate outside of traditional ethical standards, but I think that the audience will be able to discern the good from the bad.

I know the Internet is a great venue for local, regional and international investigative reporting. I have been reading a fantastic investigative reporter online for about six years. Greg Palast, http://www.gregpalast.com/, offers great investigative reporting, though it is of a progressive nature. Palast uncovered a variety of issues following the 2000 and 2004 elections, and then went on to uncover eerily similar irregularities in the national Mexican election. His site has grown in popularity and become more polished and slick since i first began reading it and since then he has himself turned a great deal of the issues first developed on his site into a book. Palast has been able to grow his site through quality in depth reporting and self-marketing. He is offering a valuable needed commodity to his community of readers, a need which other media outlets -at least American ones - are not providing and is fulfilling the watchdog role. I think it is up to the reader to judge the product of sites like Atlanta Unfiltered and Palast and decide if they are serious quality journalism. It is up to the writer to produce and self-promote and find the audience.

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