Laura Frank's Expose series, The Withering Watchdog, states with compelling perspective why there should be concern nationwide regarding the erosion of investigative journalism. Here's an excerpt:
"Investigative reporting has long been the staple of mainstream media. And the mainstream media has almost single-handedly wielded the clout and the cash to fight for the public's right to know.
"If Americans appreciate the right to criticize public officials, or look at the local government's budget — well, they owe it largely to the mainstream media, two of the nation's top media lawyers say. They might not realize it, but "citizens have a lot to thank the mainstream media for," says attorney Lucy Dalglish, who heads the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
"Take a look at almost every single open records law, open meetings law, or lawsuit brought in violation of one of those laws in the U.S., Dalglish says. Those laws guarantee the public's right to know what its government is doing. The fight for those rights was brought and paid for by the mainstream media.
" 'Anything that has to do with the public's right to know about what goes on in its institutions up to now has been funded by the media — mostly newspapers,' Dalglish said. The right to witness a trial or see a jury be selected. The protection against censorship. The right to see government documents. All these rights were solidified through lawsuits brought by newspapers or press associations, she said.
"But all that is at risk now, Dalglish adds. Fewer media companies — or individual news outlets — are willing or able to take on large legal fights, she said. " 'A blogger in his PJs in the basement is not going to have the resources to pull off — let alone know how to go about — bringing one of these fights to court,' she said. 'This is a scary time.' "
One would think that with such a horrendous prospect, the news industry would be working very, very hard to help the public understand what's happening and the price the public will pay if investigative journalism is butchered. Except for PBS and Expose, the story's not out there. Why? The industry's too busy counting beans and gambling on coverage of the weak links in our shallow society's interests. The same arrogance and ignorance that got the industry into today's mess continues to lead it toward oblivion.
For years, I've marveled at how the newspaper industry will fight for the public but ignores the need to nurture the public's understanding and appreciation of journalism, investigative journalism in particular. That's a tragic oversight that I hope does not result in tragic consequences.
What do you think? If you have a blog, I hope you'll join in the effort to bring these issues to the public's attention.