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The Mechanics
« Three Bags of Tea for the Disloyal Opposition Police Computers Were All Down For 24 Hours. Newsworthy? Apparently Not »

Media Sun Apr 19 2009

Without Investigative Reporters...

.. we may just be in big trouble. In the middle of an otherwise joy-inducing post (i.e the Celtics are in deep trouble without Kevin Garnett), Simmons writes this sobering paragraph:

There's a hidden sub-story lurking here: It involves the fall of newspapers, lack of access and the future of reporting, not just with sports but with everything. I grew up reading Bob Ryan, who covered the Celtics for the Boston Globe and remains the best basketball writer alive to this day. Back in the 1970s and early '80s, he was overqualified to cover the team. In 1980, he would have sniffed out the B.S. signs of this KG story, kept pursuing it, kept writing about it, kept working connections and eventually broken it.

Simmons goes on to write:

But this Garnett story, and how it was (and wasn't) covered, reminds me of "The Wire," which laid out a blueprint in Season 5 for the death of newspapers without us fully realizing it. The season revolved around the Baltimore Sun and its inability (because of budget cuts and an inexperienced staff) to cover the city's decaying infrastructure. The lesson was inherent: We need to start caring about the decline of newspapers, because, really, all hell is going to break loose if we don't have reporters breaking stories, sniffing out corruption, seeing through smoke and mirrors and everything else

We've just been treated, courtesy of Ben Jovarsky and Mick Dumke's story on the parking meter fiasco, to what investigative journalism looks like and how it can potentially change the . My concern, unlike Simmons and others, is not corruption won't get sniffed out, but that when we do find out about, we'll know about it in an after the fact and superficial manner. This leaves too much room for spinning away details, but more importantly, it leaves too much room for a throwing up of hands. Great investigative journalism provides enought sordid details that readers can see each pivot point where some intervention, whether a legal intervention, a policy change, or the actions of a bold watchdog or community group, could have stopped the tide of corruption. Reporting by press release merely strengthens the impression that there is nothing one can do to combat corruption, that all public officials are hopelessly corrupt by nature.

That's the tragedy of the death of newspapers. Until we can find a better way to fund investigative journalism, our democracy is in trouble.

 
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Brad Flora / April 20, 2009 9:51 AM

I think your worries are within reason. As great as the Reader's parking meter story was, it was definitely after-the-fact. It's wonderful to have a piece that lays out the situation in that much detail, but its too bad the city didn't get it a few months earlier when people could have done something with the information.

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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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