Fall 2008

21st Century Muckrackers: Staying Local, Digging Deep

On this point, editors, reporters and newspaper readers agree. In a time of cutbacks and a shrinking news hole, at a moment when print is in peril and digital is dominant, watchdog and investigative reporting must remain at the core of journalism’s mission. In this third part of our 21st Century Muckrakers project, editors and reporters speak to how metro and regional newspapers are confronting the enormous challenges of today and offer clues to where this kind of reporting will likely be headed tomorrow. —Melissa Ludtke, editor

21st Century Muckrakers: Staying Local, Digging Deep
Introduction
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
Making Firm a Newspaper’s Focus on Investigative Reporting (1 comment)
‘In an age when our critics love to crow that news is an undifferentiated commodity available anywhere, investigative reporting clearly isn’t.’
By David Boardman
Investigative Reporting: Strategies for Its Survival
New funding mechanisms and newsroom changes are needed if watchdog journalism is to thrive in small and midmarket news organizations.
By Edward Wasserman
Investigative Reporting: Keeping It Relevant, Keeping It Local
‘Our story selection is attuned to answering the question a reader might ask: How does this affect me?’
By Paul D’Ambrosio
The Benefits of Computer-Assisted Reporting
‘… in this day of easily accessible data, computer expertise can be a great equalizer.’
By Jason Method
Remembering the Value of Investigative Journalism
A newspaper editor describes six newsroom strategies that ensure that watchdog reporting thrives—even at news organizations where resources are limited.
By Rex Smith
Finding Support for a Lengthy Mission
To do this investigative story, ‘we needed the total investment of our editors, our newspaper’s publisher and, in turn, Hearst Corporation executives.’
By Brendan Lyons
Needed: A Leader to Champion the Cause
In restructuring The Post and Courier’s newsroom, the top editor strengthened the focus on investigative journalism in the newspaper and on the Web.
By Doug Pardue
Employing Different Strategies With Two Projects (1 comment)
‘… investigative reporting can be just as effective at revealing why something did happen as it can be in documenting how something could happen.’
By Ron Menchaca
Joining Forces to Produce Public Service Journalism
‘By using a model like this one, we can more effectively use our staff to do investigative journalism that holds government institutions accountable.’
By David Ledford
Connecting Congressional Earmarks With Campaign Contributions (1 comment)
An investigative reporter creates a database of earmarks revealing the relationship between wasteful spending and political favors.
By David Heath
Investing in Watchdog Reporting
‘… the Journal Sentinel has built a 10-person Watchdog Team with a robust Web presence called Watchdog Online.’
By Mark Katches
Public Investigator: Transforming Tips Into Stories
Two reporters use quick-hit, watchdog journalism to investigate local issues—and blog about what they do.
By Raquel Rutledge and Ellen Gabler
Nurturing Newsroom Talent With Local Investigations
‘For projects, the newspaper now typically links a lead investigative reporter with beat reporters.’
By Michael Sallah
When Fierce Competitors Join the Same Team
North Carolina’s leading newspapers now publish each other’s investigative work ‘as prominently as we would have had we reported them ourselves.’
By Gary Schwab
Investigative Talent Departs After Awards Come In
The Blade’s commitment to investigative reporting endures despite the loss of key reporters to larger news organizations with better pay.
By Dave Murray
Changing Circumstances Delay An Investigation—and Lead to a New Approach
With The Blade’s I-team no longer functioning, the paper’s only investigative reporter now partners with beat reporters to do watchdog stories.
By Steve Eder
From Idea, to Beat Reporting, to Investigative Project
At the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the I-team created a new strategy to make certain that watchdog journalism is featured in the newspaper.
By Lois Norder
Team Reporting on a Watchdog Project
Tensions surfaced as an investigative team produced a six-part series amid pressures of a downsized newsroom.
By Darren Barbee
Zimbabwe: Overcoming Obstacles to Get News Out
In Zimbabwe, Courage Is the Journalist’s Companion
‘What Mugabe did not want the press to report was how he was using systematic state torture and violence against blacks opposed to his rule.’
By Andrew Meldrum
Graphic Art as Political Commentary
Images By Chaz Maviyane-Davies
Zimbabwe: Telling the Story, Reporting the News
‘The finer points of journalism have, regrettably, had to be compromised in the desperate battle for access to information. This is guerrilla journalism ….’
By Wilf Mbanga
The Emotional Tug of the Zimbabwean Story (1 comment)
‘I’ve fallen hard for the country and for its people and ache to go back.
By Tracy McVeigh
Words & Reflections
Reporting on the White House From the Outside In (1 comment)
‘If reporters entrusted to cover the White House know we are in the midst of a “truth-deficient” environment, what is the most responsible way to do our work?’
By Amy Goldstein
Editorial Cartooning: Tradition, Timidity and Transition
Missing from a lot of cartooning ‘is Mauldin’s sense of righteous indignation.’
By Chris Lamb
Finger-Wagging at Journalists Doesn’t Illuminate the Problem
‘What we need—and this attempt doesn’t satisfy—is insight into how all of this
By Doug Struck
Connecting the Threads of Democracy and Journalism
‘Too often, the decision—based on expedience and expenditure—to publish what is popular or entertaining trumps what is necessary.’
By Gerald B. Jordan
The Internet: How It Changes Everything About Journalism (1 comment)
‘What was once an important role—making editorial choices—starts to feel more like a bottleneck in the system.’
By Joshua Benton
Correcting the Errors of Our Ways
‘By ignoring readers’ pleas for accuracy and accountability, journalists are
By Greg Brock
Public Service Pulitzers: How These Stories Were Told (1 comment)
Reporters’ experiences ‘remind journalists why they are in their business and inform the rest of the world how the mission of the press fits into society.’
By Elizabeth Mehren
Journalists and Neighbors: Mehren and Harris
By Elizabeth Mehren
The Missourian: A Unique Approach to Teaching Journalism
‘All journalism schools have trouble reconciling vocational goals and academic needs, and the conflict was felt first and most sharply at Missouri.’
By Philip Meyer
The Life and Times of a Female Foreign Correspondent (1 comment)
A British reporter writes about reporting from war zones and overseas assignments—and adds marriage and motherhood into the mix.
By Mary Jordan
TV News: When the Networks Were In Their Prime
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the CBS Washington bureau—including Roger Mudd, who now writes about it—led the way for broadcast journalism.
By Bill Wheatley
Curator's Corner
Making Change While Retaining Our Core Mission
Curators have expanded the program through the years ‘to confront the challenges brought about by societal and technological changes that affect journalism.’
By Bob Giles
Nieman Notes
The Rights and Responsibilities of Journalists
In his new book, Anthony Lewis offers a ‘cogent, yet complete accounting of some of the most searing issues that have faced journalists over the past decade.’
By Joel Kaplan
Georgian Journalists Send Word of Their Fate (1 comment)
‘The situation is insane.… My friends—both journalists—were killed in Ossetia. Just confirmed that..am devastated..’
By Karl Idsvoog