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Collaboration: the future of investigative journalism?

Collaboration: the future of investigative journalism?

The second day of the Logan Symposium at UC Berkeley had a panel devoted to the future of investigative journalism, considering "recently it has not been a high priority for editors and publishers," due to the time, money and energy that goes into it.

The discussions involved different leaders in the field such as Robert Rosenthal of the Center for Investigative Reporting, and Buzz Woolley, chairman of the board and primary funder of Voice of San Diego. The air was relatively optimistic as the speakers focused on collaboration as the key to the future of investigative journalism.

Bill Keller of the New York Times commented, "I don't think investigative journalism will go away, and there is emerging media that will be partly profit, partly non-profit, partly collaborative, partly competitive, mainly online". Robert Rosenthal was hopeful: "Last year I said the business model for newspapers was toast. Now I believe that collaboration is going to be very important for profit and nonprofit journalism". Esther Kaplan, of The Nation Institute Investigative Fund says that partnerships in the field "are in their infancy" and they take a lot of work to happen. "We should consider a lot more, like joint investigation sites, shared technology for micro-financing," she added.

While talking about non-profit being new to investigative journalism, Chuck Lewis of American University mentioned several non-profits that are growing; "there's the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica which started recently. New non-profits are springing up all over the U.S. -- the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and others are forming as we speak, in Boston, in Texas and Colorado and other places and they're all looking for advice."

Recent well-known non-profits include ProPublica and VoiceOfSanDiego.org. ProPublica started work in January 2008 as "an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest." The company uses its funding to support 28 staff, who produce investigative reporting which is then given, not sold, to news outlets. VoiceOfSanDiego.org was founded in 2005 as a non-profit, online-only publication focusing on quality investigative reporting for the San Diego area. Other recent projects pertaining to the field are the HuffPost's investigative journalism fund and the efforts of two former Wall Street Journal reporters to start an investigative company. And then there are the older organizations like CIR, which was founded in 1977 and is currently developing its newsroom to adapt to the 21st century and lead investigative journalism through the transformations.

While the United States is on its way with new means of financing investigative journalism, questions are asked about the possibility of such enterprises in Europe. Yesterday, an article on journalism.co.uk called "What would a UK-based ProPublica look like?" wonders where the UK will go with these ideas and how they would be funded. The article mentions a project in the making by Paul Bradshaw, a journalism lecturer and blogger working on HelpMeInvestigate.com. It has reached the third stage of the Knight News Challenge 2009, if they win, they'll be granted $5million to fund the project.

The trend has reached Europe with The European Fund for Investigative Journalism, launched earlier this year as a project run by the Belgian Pascal Decroos Fund. The director, Brigitte Alfter said that the Fund aims to fill this gap, to "keep the quality up." When comparing the US's tactics in funding investigative journalists, Alfter suggested that maybe the reason Europe is behind is that Americans are known to have a "strong philanthropic tradition, that we don't have in Europe."

Source: Journalism.co.uk, PBS.org



Marion Geiger


2009-04-07 12:28

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