Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is investigative journalism dying out?

My weekly book post on s+b's blog covers two books--one that bemoans the dearth of muckrakers and one by a muckraker

Muckraking Is Alive and Well

Investigative reporting is the pinnacle of journalism, and has been ever since the early 20th century when writers like Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker exposed systemic corruption in the United States and changed the nation. They helped bring down business trusts, provided the impetus for much-needed regulation and oversight (in Steffen’s case, the establishment of the Federal Reserve System), and created political platforms for reformers, such as Teddy Roosevelt, who named them muckrakers. Is there a business reporter who doesn’t aspire to follow in their footsteps?
And yet, less and less investigative—or accountability—reporting is being published, according to Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) editor and fellow Dean Starkman. In his fascinating, if somewhat flawed book, The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, 2014), Starkman points to the subprime lending meltdown of 2007 as a primary example of his contention.

Although there has been no lack of high-profile investigative reporting since subprime lending imploded and caused a global recession, an examination of reporting on the subject in the years before the crisis tells another, rather curious, story. According to research that Starkman conducted at CSJ between 2004 and 2006—the period in which the worst lending excesses occurred—“mainstream accountability reporting [was] virtually dormant. The watchdog, powerful as it was, didn’t bark when it was most needed.”

But there’s more to the story... read it here

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