Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What happens if investigative reporting dies?

A new documentary, now in post-production, asks that crucial question. It's based on interviews with laid-off reporters, including some who've worked for Gannett.

Watch the trailer for Fit to Print here, and learn how you can help bring it to the big screen.


  1. Investigative reporting might not be dead, but it is certainly on life support.
    As an editor who has headed up investigations for years, it is trouble the lack of commitment most editors Gannett editors will give a project. Of late, it appears that the biggest questions coming out of the mouths of EE are: What do you have for me this weekend? How long will that take? What's Reporter Bob been doing for the last three weeks? Investigations take time and time is money in Gannett newsrooms these days. Recent cuts in staffing have put even more pressure on investigative reporting because overworked people don't like to see someone taking weeks or months on stories. The state of investigative reporting is also hampered by the fact Gannett publishers really don't want to piss anyone off in their communities. At my paper, any complaint to the publisher, typically brings a knee-jerk reaction and that reaction does not generally come down on the side or reporters and their editors. It's almost like we are being prosecuted, not the subject or the complainer. I don't hold much hope for investigative journalism in Gannett Information Centers.

  2. It’s a troubling question and strong arguments exist that media’s dimming investigative light has already encouraged too many it once watched (notably in govt) to behave in anyway they’d like, even increasingly in the open.

    Shrinking staffs and resources are no doubt part of the mix, but let’s be honest that many news worthy events from the local level on up have gone unreported, poorly reported or been decided solely on a predetermined agenda and desire to attract certain audiences over others well before now.

    Luckily for consumers, the emergence of new, non-traditional sources of news, “citizen journalists”, etc. have been increasingly filling that void, though what many lack most is trust. That’s where traditional media outlets like Gannett used to shine most, yet how have so many reacted of late? By sticking to the same old agenda, treading even more lightly with entities they once watched (ex. don’t want to incite teachers or police union members to stop subscribing when our numbers are already dwindling) and ignoring what new entrants have exposed, even when its big and growingly known even through social media connections.

    So again, shrinking resources clearly are troubling, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that decisions too many made long ago weren’t already taking newspapers further away from doing what they once unabashedly did best – shine a light when and where no one else would.

    It’s time many returned to those roots as all except those under the bright light benefit from it.

  3. People here thought the dumbing-down of newspapers would be a good thing because it would make their jobs easier.

    Now that plan has failed, so they pretend they opposed it. But they didn't. They were for it until it failed.

  4. 12:25 and 12:52 raise good points. Another side of this coin is what constitutes "investigative" journalism.

    Because of short staffs even the investigative pieces tend to be long hanging fruit. Something that can be easily culled from an FOI request - salaries of public officials, emails from one wonk to another, a health department data base.

    Even well-intentioned publishers (and there are few of those) are frightened by a lawyer's shadow. So investigative pieces tend to a statistical review, with little or no realy shoe leather journalism.

    Most newsrooms (I still use that word) have a wall with some of the more prestigious awards. Take a look at those plaques sometime and see when was the last time your paper won an award for real investigation.

    We're always going to hand each other awards, but we're not doing much in the way of real investigative journalism.

  5. "Long hanging fruit"? Well, I guess that could still be correct.

    In general, though, if you don't know what you're talking about, then you shouldn't post.

  6. When I started in journalism, editors protected their employees.
    When I left a Gannett "newsroom" the EE was known for sacrificing them.
    Little wonder the industry, especially GCI, is headed for the trash bin of irrelevance.

  7. I know better than most, of the chaos that happens when newspapers decline. Better than most, of the new media tyrants and their overt takeover of local "news", who have literally waged war on newspapers and journalists.

    Ironically, the very worst one, has Gannett as an owner. This story is in urgent need of investigative journalism, thousands of Americans are facing real harm. Check out Chris Tolles, of

  8. Diane Sawyer and 20/20 will still be there. bum politicos in small GCI towns who grift are small fish. hee hee. long live my boss. LOL

  9. USAT has a columnist that writes one column a week about their dog or a walk in the neighborhood or something else no one cares about. What if we killed the column and used the money for hard hitting investigative journalism? Wouldn't that make more sense?

  10. 10:38, are you talking about Craig Wilson's column? If so, why not say that?

  11. @109 Nobody knows what you're talking about with this 'plan' you say we voted for. This thread is about the dwindling supply of investigative journalism and you somehow are suggesting that we wanted it that way because we're lazy. Maybe you were there when this 'plan' was hatched or think you were or somebody told you it happened or - hell - maybe it was those funny mushrooms? Could you try making your point (whatever it is) some other way? You know, dumb it down for us. Come down to our subterranean level and enlighten us if it's not too much trouble.

  12. 10:47:

    I was there, and I am suggesting that you wanted it that way because you were lazy. People didn't want to read articles. They wanted to do other things, yet still get paid the same.

    The plan didn't work.

    Is that simple enough for you?


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