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Investigative Journalism Being Reborn Through the Web? 265

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i-don't-want-to-go-on-the-cart dept.
Combating the stigma that investigative journalism is dead or dying, the Huffington Post has just launched a new venture to bankroll a group of investigative journalists to take a look into stories about the nation's economy. "The popular Web site is collaborating with The Atlantic Philanthropies and other donors to launch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund with an initial budget of $1.75 million. That should be enough for 10 staff journalists who will primarily coordinate stories with freelancers, said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted on The Huffington Post, she said. The Huffington Post Web site is a collection of opinionated blog entries and breaking news. It has seven staff reporters. Huffington said she and the donors were concerned that layoffs at newspapers were hurting investigative journalism at a time the nation's institutions need to be watched closely. She hopes to draw from the ranks of laid-off journalists for the venture."
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Investigative Journalism Being Reborn Through the Web?

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  • The Huffington Post? (Score:4, Informative)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:25PM (#27392313) Homepage Journal

    You can't take the Huff seriously. IT's a political shill site.

    • You can't take the Huff seriously. IT's a political shill site.

      By that criteria, you can't take ANY site seriously.

      The trick is to sample a large number of sites across the political spectrum, and try to distill the most truthy explanation of current events.

      In other words:

      You take the good
      You take the bad
      You have 'em both
      And there ya have...
      The facts (of life).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432)

      And slashdot is a pro-tech, pro-netneutrality, pro-science blog. Fox news has investigative journalists. No reason the left shouldn't. No reason Slashdot shouldn't. No reason why anyone with an agenda shouldn't be generating content. And at least you understand the bias when you read huffington post. It doesn't attempt to hide behind any veil like a certain other news organization.

      The problem isn't whether or not there is bias it's whether or not the reader knows the bias and filters appropriately.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        And slashdot is a pro-tech, pro-netneutrality, pro-science blog. Fox news has investigative journalists. No reason the left shouldn't. No reason Slashdot shouldn't. No reason why anyone with an agenda shouldn't be generating content. And at least you understand the bias when you read huffington post. It doesn't attempt to hide behind any veil like a certain other news organization.

        The problem isn't whether or not there is bias it's whether or not the reader knows the bias and filters appropriately.

        Actually, the left does have their investigative journalists. They work for every other outlet other than Fox News (and CNN to a much lesser extent).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClosedSource (238333)

        "Fox news has investigative journalists."

        Well, they do if "investigative journalists" means "people who make stuff up".

        • "Fox news has investigative journalists."

          Well, they do if "investigative journalists" means "people who make stuff up".

          No, that's the New York Times you are thinking of (google Jayson Blair, Walter Duranty).

      • by afabbro (33948) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:57PM (#27393389) Homepage

        And slashdot is a pro-tech, pro-netneutrality, pro-science blog. Fox news has investigative journalists. No reason the left shouldn't. No reason Slashdot shouldn't. No reason why anyone with an agenda shouldn't be generating content. And at least you understand the bias when you read huffington post. It doesn't attempt to hide behind any veil like a certain other news organization.

        The problem isn't whether or not there is bias it's whether or not the reader knows the bias and filters appropriately.

        Thank you. The idea of journalistic neutrality is bullshit. Go back 100 years, when each city had a dozen newspapers. All of them were wildly biased and when you picked up a newspaper, you knew what you were getting - heck, it often stated its bias or philosophy in the mast head! Go look in Europe in the pre-War years - many of the newspapers were organs of the political parties.

        Pretending to be unbiased is nonsense - I'd rather have a couple papers that report ferociously with an in-the-open bias then the subtle, stupid bias (towards sensationalism) that we have in the modern, neutered American press.

    • Parent is true (Score:5, Informative)

      by eclectro (227083) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:14PM (#27392851)

      Parent is not flamebait as the Huffington Post actively works to censor comments [nationofcriminals.com] it doesn't like [blogspot.com] and then outright bans [wordpress.com] the user [youtube.com].

      So yes, the Huffington Post does appear to be be a shill site [amazon.com] and this attempt at investigative journalism should not be taken seriously [democratic...ground.com].

    • You can't take the Huff seriously. IT's a political shill site.

      He's not the only one who feels that way. Allow me to quote Wikipedia:

      The Huffington Post (often referred to on the Internet as HuffPost or HuffPo) is an American liberal[1] news website and aggregated weblog founded by Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site covers a wide range of topics, including sections devoted to politics, entertainment, media, living, business, and the green movement.

      Please read the bold part. Parent stated fact and was downmodded for it.

      Mods based on opinion have no place on slashdot and are against the moderator guidelines. The Mod should have posted a reply if he/she disagreed rather abusing moderator power.

      • by tjstork (137384)

        Please read the bold part. Parent stated fact and was downmodded for it.

        I didn't even condemn them for being a liberal shill site, just a shill site. Of course conservatives have their shill sites. But, you still have to have some honesty and say that's what they are.

        Mods based on opinion have no place on slashdot and are against the moderator guidelines. The Mod should have posted a reply if he/she disagreed rather abusing moderator power.

        Mods based on opinion are a fact of life on slashdot. When the con

      • wikipedia, the source that anyone can edit is chock full of bias and in no way should be used as "fact".
        the use of "liberal" in that sentence is as a descriptor, which in and of itself is - biased.
        cue (citation needed) AC post now. ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ChaosDiscord (4913) *
        Here in the reality-based community "liberal" and "political shill" are not synonyms.
    • You can't take the Huff seriously. IT's a political shill site.

      As opposed to YOUR favorite political news blog, which is (unbiased/balanced/hard-hitting/other meaningless buzzword) news reporting.~

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tjstork (137384)

        As opposed to YOUR favorite political news blog,

        Nope, actually, when I go to a political blog, I expect it to be shilling for whatever it is they shill for. But they are still shills....

  • BS (Score:2, Interesting)

    it's really in response to propublica.

    http://propublica.org/ [propublica.org]

  • by IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:30PM (#27392359) Journal
    I believe the big question here is whether the journalists will be provided the protection that the big newspapers could always provide. It is fine to believe in the letter of the constitution but without the backing of a major media conglomerate with deep pockets to go to bat for you when you are sued in indispensible. You may want to say something publicly against corporate America but the fear of repercussions is usually what limits individuals from doing so. So...how would they propose to protect the whistleblowers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Radhruin (875377)
      Submit documents anonymously to Wikileaks, then use Wikileaks documents as a primary source for a report.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pileated (53605)

      I tend to agree with you but given the populace's ignorance about journalism(see the idiotic replies to the original post that ignore it and instead choose it as a stepping off point for rants of the left and right political persuasion) it's hard to believe that anyone will understand the importance of what you say.

      We now seem to have a generation of people who believe that only the web produces anything of importance, that anything of importance can be completely comprehended in the 30 seconds that it take

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vertinox (846076)

        You're talking about cost and it sure seems to me that the vast majority of people who comment on the press (whether print, broadcast, or web) don't have the slightest idea about COST. It's a nasty little detail that they'd prefer to ignore.

        No. Not all all.

        Economic theory states that when goods and services are indistinguishable between competitors, that the consumer will always choose the cheapest one.

        Of course it isn't so simple, so that's why it is specified "indistinguishable" because an inferior produc

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      ...the backing of a major media conglomerate with deep pockets to go to bat for you when you are sued in indispensible. You may want to say something publicly against corporate America but the fear of repercussions is usually what limits individuals from doing so.

      What makes you think being the backing of a major media conglomerate makes you more safe when saying something publicly against corporate America? I mean, when you consider the overlap of major media conglomerates and corporate America, it seems like backing real whistleblowers could just as easily be against the media conglomerate's interests.

      I think I'd rather have a whole ton of smaller independent operations than a couple humungous umbrella companies that run the whole show.

    • Don't forget government. Far forabuses of the press have come from government than have come from corporations. If you piss of a company, they can pull their advertisements from your paper, but if you piss of government they can imprison you. Not just in Zimbabwe or Nicaragua, but in the U.S.! People bitch about Bush, but he was a pansy compared some former presidents. Contrary to his angelic image, Lincoln would close down newspapers and jail their editors, without trials.

      • Considering that a Civil War was going on, I don't think you can validly compare the circumstances. Or the people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by metrometro (1092237)

      how would they propose to protect the whistleblowers?

      I refer you to the Fund for Independence in Journalism. A legal defense fund for small, aggressive media outlets. They take donations.

      http://www.tfij.org/ [tfij.org]

      Started by Chuck Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity after the Center spent over a million dollars fighting libel cases. They have never lost a libel case, but pretty soon their libel insurance company dropped them. Their opposition spent 3 million litigating a single case. Scary.

  • by wstrucke (876891)
    hell, i don't care what their slant is, the more people out there looking at and reporting on the economy and the government, the better. perhaps through all of the crap that comes up we might find a grain of truth
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      and perhaps the grains of truth will get lost in the haystack of noise to mix as many metaphors as possible.

  • by MosesJones (55544) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:33PM (#27392393) Homepage

    I mean apart from in the US where the media appears to have become scared of actually questioning politicians or holding them to account. Journalism in the UK still seems to find the dirt on politicians and companies and deep investigative exercises are still carried out in lots of different areas.

    The basic issue in the US is the partisan nature of both politics and the media, why bother to investigate when its all basically just monkeys throwing shit at a wall. Blogs and the internet are unlikely to change that as its just going to be the same partisan stuff with slightly different shit.

    When the likes of Jon Stewart are the finest investigative political journalists that your country has then you know you are in trouble.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:43PM (#27392527) Journal

      When the likes of Jon Stewart are the finest investigative political journalists that your country has then you know you are in trouble.

      There's a big difference between an investigative journalist and a talking head.

      There are lots of good journalists in the US... they just don't get TV time. And since Americans can't be bothered to digest any news not provided to them in an ADD-friendly 2 minute TV blurb (or a scrolling text bar at the bottom of their TV screen), the good journalists are ignored by the public. Since they're mostly ignored, those journalists aren't paying the bills at their place of employment, so they get laid off.

      Seriously... VERY few investigative journalists are recognized by name in the US, Seymour Hirsch being probably the only prominent counter-example. Since the US culture is largely dominated by celebrity, having no reporters who are celebrities means that no one cares about investigative journalism.

      I think it's great the the HuffPo will be employing some of these reporters... I just hope that the editorialization at HuffPo doesn't get in the way of good journalism.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      The basic issue in the US is the partisan nature of both politics and the media

      Agreed, and The Huffington Post is widely regarded [washingtonpost.com] as a left leaning blog. I think objective journalism [wikipedia.org] died long before investigative journalism. I would love to see some great, old fashioned, investigative journalism, but I fear it would be extremely biased in today's media outlets.

  • Shattered Glass (Score:5, Informative)

    by VinylRecords (1292374) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:36PM (#27392439)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0323944/ [imdb.com]

    Shattered Glass is a film about how an investigative journalist, Adam Peneberg, working for Forbes.com in 1996, exposed journalist Stephen Glass for plagiarizing nearly every article he wrote for The New Republic, a well trusted and highly respected journalistic publication.

    This was considered one of the first major breakthroughs for online journalism and it happened in 1996. Online news has been filled with investigative journalism for a while.

    Even wikileaks can be seen as legitimate investigative reporting and whistle blowing. http://www.wikileaks.org/ [wikileaks.org]

     

    • Re:Shattered Glass (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:55PM (#27392655) Journal

      Shattered Glass is a film about how an investigative journalist, Adam Peneberg, working for Forbes.com in 1996, exposed journalist Stephen Glass for plagiarizing nearly every article he wrote for The New Republic, a well trusted and highly respected journalistic publication.

      Stephen Glass wasn't busted for plagiarism, he was busted mostly for making up sources and facts.

      A contemporary of his at TNR, Ruth Shalit, was busted (& fired) for plagiarism and factual errors.

      Under Peretz (the Editor-in-Chief of TNR), TNR has lost a ton of respect in journalistic circles.

      There have been more recent issues with TNR, (google Spiegel, Ackerman, or Beauchamp and The New Republic for details)... lots of factual problems and insufficient editorial oversight.

      At any rate, you're correct about investigative journalism on the web... I just find it interesting that the examples you cite (sans wikileaks) deal with 'disproving' traditional print media investigative journalism. I find the web to be a great source for debunking falsehoods, but not as good for primary material... maybe I'm looking in the wrong places :)

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      Even wikileaks can be seen as legitimate investigative reporting and whistle blowing.

      People always hold wikileaks in such high regrard. Why, just the other day a snake slithered up to me and said:

      ...your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.

      Then I heard a story about another couple who read wikileaks.

      ...their eyes were opened to any more perfect knowledge of good; but only to the unhappy experience of having lost the good of original grace and innocence, and incurred the dreadful evil of sin.

      I guess ignorance is bliss.

    • "Even wikileaks..."???

      Wikileaks (which, by the way, is timing out on me right now) basically IS a "whistleblowing" site. That's what it's for. What do you think that name means?

      Granted, a bit of the stuff may be questionable, but there have been some very, very big stories come out of there.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:36PM (#27392445)

    Disconnect. Bad plan, darlings. Journalism is undergoing a paradigm shift right now in the same way graphics design underwent it. Before the 1990s, we had separate jobs for typesetting, graphic artist, layout, etc. All that went out the window when the PC came along and suddenly anyone could make a newsletter using PageMaker. The demand for all that graphic design footwork -- needing to hire a team of people to design it, imploded. What came out of it was the versatile graphic designer -- a jack of all trades. Journalism until recently had many different career paths. With the collapse of the printed media and an entire generation growing up used to the idea of instant access to everything, cross-referenced and streaming on demand -- deadlines have gone from a day to a few minutes. How long does it take to get indexed into google so people can search for your article? That time difference is the new deadline. And audiences aren't local anymore -- they are global.

    Reconnect. Our collective knowledge is also heavily slanted to the global and national level now. For example, up here in Minnesota, a recent "local" story has been the flooding near Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN along the Red river. When I asked my friends who would be willing to car pool up with me to help sandbagging efforts last friday (the story had been out for a good week) -- only one of my friends had any knowledge of the event, out of about 15 people I asked. Local news doesn't exist anymore for our generation. Strange, but true. Of course, they ALL knew about major national and global events. Our communities really are losing their geographical ties.

    I see the future of journalism being somewhat akin to blogging. Journalists simply pick their own interest and self-direct their energies towards it. Interested parties will, via word of mouth and advertisement, come to know that particular journalist. A one-to-many relationship. The sources for these stories will be the readers of those stories. Slashdot is a decent example of what journalism will come to resemble -- open, online forums that are dedicated to particular communities. But I highly doubt that in the journalism to come that people will simply visit one website for their needs. It'll probably look more like Google news -- RSS feeds that we select and create lists of journalists who are involved in fields we have a mutual interest in.

    Journalism will become, much like graphic design, at least half or more self-employed or contract/temp work in the next ten years. And we'll come to know journalists by name, instead of by what network or paper they represent.

    • by Slider451 (514881)

      Good post. Wish I had mod points.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      only one of my friends had any knowledge of the [flooding in ND/MN], out of about 15 people I asked.

      That's just weird, since the flooding has made national news so even if that was their only source they should have heard about it. Are these major national and global events mostly political in nature? If they get their news from politically-focused sources, that might explain it.

      Slashdot is a decent example of what journalism will come to resemble

      Ugh that made my eyes tear up and some vomit come up my th

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pileated (53605)

      Sorry I've been "paradigmed-shifted" to death. Paradigm shifts are recognized long after the fact. Contemporaneous paradigm-shifts are not paradigm-shifts at all: they're someone trying to further their own objectives coupled with wishful thinking about the future.

      I don't know how many times I've read this identical analysis about the future of journalism: all successful journalists will be BRANDS. We'll see. My guess is that in 5 years any journalists that are still around will look back at the self-promot

    • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday March 30, 2009 @05:32PM (#27393793)

      Having worked in the graphic design industry for at least 10 years now I have to point out that you're quite mistaken about the state of the industry.

      I happened to enter the industry after computers were fully embraced by the industry but just as the internet was starting to take off. What I've found is that the perception towards graphic design has changed, but the reality of the work itself has not.

      Because people have access to desktop publishing applications there has a tendency for design to be trivialized. It's all well and good for simplistic newsletters, but what I've often encountered is that once these people start trying to put something together they find themselves overwhelmed. Design wasn't about having the mechanical skills to produce a layout; it's about working with a variety of resources and using creativity, improvisation and strategy to produce work that meets particular requirements. It's common to have people look at design and claim they could do it themselves. But try doing so without copying.

      As for the nature of freelancing in design, you'd be shocked by how many design companies exist out there. If anything, I think the market is over-saturated, but the fact is that the work is there. There aren't a lot of freelancers in this profession not because of a particular challenge facing the industry. There are so many of them out there because it's so competitive a market. And a lot of design companies have adopted the approach of primarily hiring freelancers because it's cost effective. It's because design has been commoditized. A lot of the same business idiots who keep outsourcing work think they can get everything on the cheap. They'd outsource design if they could, but it's almost impossible to get someone overseas to produce the kind of design work companies here need.

      This brings me back to journalism and this attitude that anyone can produce this work and be good at it. There's this talk about how blogging is changing things. It is, but is it doing so in a good way? Nearly all blogs are little more than a news aggregate. All they provide in the way of content is commenting and maybe some editorializing.

      This brings me to another issue. At least traditional news agencies have the pretense of being unbiased. Blogs are almost always dripping with bias and are generally unfriendly to dissenting views. Slashdot's format is better than most, but even here certain viewpoints have a tendency to be modded down. I have no problem with this, whatsoever, if it's clear the blog is more of a personal editorial. But I do have a problem when they try to pass themselves off as being impartial.

      Another problem is that people want everything spoon-fed in bite-sized doses. How many people actually read full articles and don't just read sensationalist headlines and maybe skim over the summary. Blogs encourage this model.

      Well, I could go on with the problems I see. And despite this I do think that the internet has real value and will probably bring about positive change. The problems I describe are probably symptoms of American media in general, but from what I've seeing the web isn't really helping.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        whoa. whoa boy. A lot of good points, but you are mistaken about the level of self-employment. Read this [bls.gov]. They quote 25%. I know the amount of freelance work done is more -- even graphic designers who have a permanent position do it on the side. It's just the lifestyle we have. As to market saturation, i don't know where you live, but here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, all my contacts say we have more candidates than positions right now. And I know how many design companies are out there. I also know a lot of th

  • I guess folks haven't been reading ProPublica, Media Matters or Talking Points Memo.
  • To be a few ticks above a forum moderator?

    Nice gig
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Indeed, they should be able to easily get 25 to 50 people for that amount, not 10.

    • With 10 reporters, you will have a bit more administrative work, you will need someone to (more) editing and layout, and more expenses (especially if they have to travel), and more. Plus benefits. It does not translate directly into $175k apiece. Very far from it.
  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:47PM (#27392575)
    I haven't bought a paper in years, and the free ones that get tossed in my driveway go into the recycling bin. I get all my news off free Internet sites.

    Welcome to the 21st century Huffington (and NY times, and Washington Post, et. al.) No bailout loans for those that refused to change until it was too late, or changed and couldn't figure out how to make money at it.
  • Journalism? (Score:4, Funny)

    by TrebleJunkie (208060) <[ezahurak] [at] [atlanticbb.net]> on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:48PM (#27392587) Homepage Journal

    The Huffington Post is to journalism what an Asian Nike sweatshop is to day care.

    • So you're saying that in "journalism" the writers get pampered and looked after while the Huffington Post puts them to work?

      Or wait, I'm forgetting that sometimes kids get mistreated and abused in day care... So traditional newspapers would be better off if one of their parents were looking after them, but the Huffington Post is run by people with small hands?

      Sorry, I'm bad with metaphors.

    • by RingDev (879105)

      Albeit inflammatory, it's really not as insulting as you think.

      Huffington Post is putting Journalists to work.

      Asian Nike sweatshops put day care employees to work.

      So your analogy is spot on accurate, but the inflammatory choice of subject mater leads me to believe that you have a bias.

      -Rick

  • Content Theft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TyntTracer (1519461)
    The real issue for all online journalists is theft of content. It is difficult to create good content. Therefore it is particularly tough for those that create it if there is no traffic going to their site. Why would they bother?
    • There is no "content theft", only copyright infringement*. Aside from that notable correction, what exactly are you referring to - copying and pasting of entire articles, which is a blatant copyright violation? Or AP style whining about people who (gasp!) exercise their fair use rights?


      *Yes, it's infringement, not theft. Deal with it. You don't have any problems seeing the difference between driving under the influence and embezzlement, or the difference between rape and arson. We have different t
  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:21PM (#27392951)

    Newspapers (as in "news" printed on paper) may be dead, or dying due to the medium switching to electronic distribution of information, but Journalism is far from dead.
    Far from it, in this age when every prepubescent teen with an agenda can slap an opinion blog and consider it news, it is more important than ever to have professionals discovering, editing and presenting information.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Monday March 30, 2009 @05:01PM (#27393443) Homepage Journal

    We are all biased - I'm biased, you are biased, he's biased. In and of itself, that doesn't have to be a bad thing - bias can be a hell of a motivator.

    If $Journalist investigates $Politician because $Politician is a member of $Party and $Journalist thinks $Party are a bunch of crooks, and $Journalist's bias makes him keep digging until he finds something out and reports it, that is GOOD.

    However, it is a question of reputation: If I know that $Journalist has a hate-on for $Party, I can weight what $Journalist write accordingly. If I know that $Journalist has a hate-on for $Party and lets that bias color his reporting, I can take that into account. If, on the other hand, I know that $Journalist has a hate-on for $Party, and as a result is especially scrupulous on his checking of his facts, I can take that into account as well.

    If $Biased_as_Hell_website hires investigative reporters, but is careful not to spike stories from them just because it goes against their bias, then I might read them even if their bias goes against my own. But $Biased_as_Hell_website is going to have to PROVE to me, every day, that they are trying to keep their facts separate from their opinions. And if I get a whiff that they aren't, then I will ignore them from that moment onward.

    And if $Journalist gets a reputation for ignoring "inconvenient facts", for going soft on his friends and hard on his foes, then I will blow him off as well.

    And THAT is what is important - that these "New Media" types establish reputations I can use to judge their reporting. Be up-front with your bias - at least with DailyKos and Rush I know their biases, and can at least begin to apply a correction factor. But when somebody tries to pretend "Oh, me? I'm not biased, trust me" - I know they are lying to me, I just don't know in which direction to correct for it.

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