Investigative Journalism Finds A New Home: Online

Monday, September 12, 2011

With advancements in technology we no longer just absorb news or information in one way at a time. Instead, we rely on multiple media sources at once, and everything is now on a multimedia platform.

For example, when I open a new story on KCCI's website, I can view/listen to a video, see pictures, and read a typed article, all full of information about what happened.

I had never before considered how this would effect the necessity for investigative journalists, until I read a blog about the topic.

In past years investigating a large story would take an investigative journalists a lot of time, and there for they would have to be payed a lot of money. Today, social networks and millions of other networks make it easier to find leads, sources and experts to contact about a particular topic. Therefore, it takes much less time for someone to get the amount of information they need.

So now you might think that with this many sources to use anyone could do the investigating themselves and wonder, what is an investigative journalist for? The author says the two main things are:
-uncovering the hidden
-reporting the new

Not all of their work is done online. They not only have to find this information, but they have to verify it, link it together and explain why it's newsworthy.

Instead of thinking that investigative journalism is becoming easier, I think we should realize that this accessibility might actually make it harder. All of this information is available, and now the investigative journalist will have to take the time to look at ALL of it and will have no excuses for missing bits of information.

It's a changing platform, just like all aspects of the media, but it's definitely not dying off.


The Switch to Digital Media

With the internet changing the way millions of people receive their news, media organizations are realizing that a straight switch to digital is not quite the answer.

Patrick Smith of wrote an interesting article on how our society is not yet completely digital. Many citizens (of the UK in Smith’s article – and I’m sure many American’s as well) don’t even have internet access. Smith estimated that 8.73 million UK adults have never been online.

This is a large audience that is being missed by the digital armada. Some could argue that a blog post or an online story is only as good as its potential audience deems it.

Smith points out that the growing use of smart phones and tablets is leading to a larger consumption of media online. Mehreen Khan and Salamander Davoudi of Financial Times ( commented in their article Future of Communications that, “As newspapers and magazines innovate to meet the demands of the new consumer, the transformation should be seen as an evolution, not a threat.”

It is no question that the internet has changed the way that we consume information. However, marketing and media outlets cannot simply flick a switch and move into a digital world. The progress with be gradual, but unstoppable.


Are Sports Writers' Jobs at Risk?

First a computer beat us on Jeopardy, now their taking jobs from reporters. A company know as Narrative Science has created a machine that can write sports stories that seem quite…well, human.

The New York Times reported on the fascinating new technology. An excerpt from the article is as follows:

“WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3... . ”

These words were written by a computer within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the U.N.L.V. – Wisconsin game. The Big Ten Network seems to be capitalizing off of the efficient and apparently cheap story writing technology. According to Chris Gayomali of Techland, a division of TIME, the current rate for a 500 word story is merely $10. This seems quite a bit cheaper than employing a freelance human writer.

How long until machines take over writing human interest stories or romance novels?

Or homework!?


Bias - Seeing Both Sides of the Story

When writing a recent story a highly newscast sporting event, I constantly found myself having to use the backspace key to rework a sentence. I kept having to step away from the computer and collect my thoughts before returning to the screen to take another stab at what I was writing. Why was this so hard? I thought I could write without bias no problem, but every time I went to type about how my favorite team screwed up, I found myself regretting the story. How do you overcome bias in journalism?

A recent blog I came across that hinges on overcoming bias in journalism had an interesting article by Robin Hanson detailing bias in journalism and what readers are really searching for. One comment by a reader really struck me when dealing with my own bias.

"I wouldn’t say that this is really what customers want. I think most readers want
opinionated journalism that affirms their biases. Newspapers used to be much more partisan.
If you read 19th century newspapers it’s startling how opinionated and partisan they were,
but that’s because there were a lot more newspapers per city. In the early 20th century
newspapers started consolidating and cities came to be dominated by one newspaper, which,
in order to maintain its monopoly, had to present at least the appearance of an unbiased,
even-handed perspective. When tv news sprang up, it was built on this model. Now the world
of blogging has revived the former world of partisan journalism. This is advantageous for
assessing their truth claims because readers can take into account the writer’s biases, and
also because readers have access to genuinely ardent and articulate defenders of both (or
many) sides of an issue. The problem of the journalist taking the middle ground, is they may
not really understand one or either position that well. It’s valuable to hear both sides of the
dispute for readers presented by people who understand and can defend that position well
because then you much better evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various
opinions. In short, I think presenting the middle ground is fine, if you understand the debate
well, but it’s unlikely that most journalists will understand both sides of a controversial
question well."

I believe the reader makes a solid point that with today's changing media outlets, readers are becoming more adverse in their knowledge and seeking differing views in hopes of detailing the story in their own perspectives.

A common saying better illustrates this ideal, "History is always written by the winner." Throughout history, the victor in a war was the one who made history and as the other nations crumbled, no one remained to tell the other tales. How would our history books look today if both perspectives were written on many notable times? Would we feel the same way about bias in journalism if we understood both sides of the story?


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