Investigative journalism 2.0

Tom James @ 02-09-2008

newspaper_journalismSelf-described new media whore Paul Carr has an interesting take on the future of investigative journalism and publishing – the problem:

Talk to a random sample of journalists and they’ll tell you the same thing – no one commissions investigative journalism any more.

Talk to any editor and they’ll tell you why; it costs a fortune to produce and rarely adds anything in terms of circulation or bottom line.

In an era of plummeting circulation and competition from free online news sources, as far as a cost-benefits analysis of newspaper investigations goes, it’s all cost and no benefit.

Basically another example of the problem of monetizing content that costs a lot to produce but little to reproduce. After dismissing one Web 2.0 business that attempts to address the problems of investigative journalism called Spot Us Mr Carr proffers his own solution:

I’d kill it. Take it out to the shed and put a bullet through its brain. Its been sick since the mid-80s and watching it try to struggle for twenty more years is embarrassing at best and cruel at worst.

Walk in to any bookshop and go to the politics, culture, biography or current affairs section. Now tell me investigative reporting is dead.

Of course these are the big stories – what of the smaller, more immediate ones? TV news. It’s there first, it has money and access and it has a 24 hour cycle to fill, meaning that every lead gets followed and reported no matter how apparently inconsequential.

Online news sources have their part to play too, although, frankly, they can be divided into two camps – brand extension for established media companies or total horseshit. Blogs have a role – but it’s confined to fact checking and uninformed gadflyery.

This gadfly likes Carr’s idea of idea of a cheap, subscription book-service, slightly more in-depth than a typical article in The Economist but less heavy than (for example) the 464 pages of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and you would also get a tighter, more focused, and original piece of reporting:

I’d approach an established publishing house with a business plan – a new imprint that publishes short (40,000 words maybe), low cover price (£4.99 tops) books, each written by a recognised investigative reporter and each dealing with a single investigative subject.

Also recommended is Paul Carr’s recently published book Bringing Nothing to the Party: True Confessions of a New Media Whore. It combines hilarious gonzo journalism with genuine insight from Paul Carr’s experience as a wannabe Web 2.0 entrepreneur.

[story from Paul Carr’s blog][image from dsearls on flickr]

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3 Responses to “Investigative journalism 2.0”

  1. Tom Marcinko says:

    An idea I’ve heard floated: Newspapers should be nonprofit entities. It might be the only way to save them. Though I’m a bit sketchy on how this might come about.

  2. Digidave says:

    I wouldn’t count Spot.Us out so quickly. Granted – I often say it’s not a silver bullet, it might have an impact worth noting.

    I’m obviously bias – but very passionate about making this work. And that’s gotta count for something.

  3. Paul Raven says:

    I think it’s an intriguing idea, Digidave, and I’ll be interested to see how it develops. If you’d like to drop us a line occasionally here at Futurismic telling us how it’s going, I’d be appreciative. I won’t mourn the newspapers, but proper journalism would be a tragic thing to lose – all the more so because of the seeming paucity of it currently in existence.