Investigating the Decline of Investigative Reporters

Did you ever dream of being a journalist?  What did that look like to you?  I'm guessing it was mostly about investigating stories and talking to high profile politicians or celebrities.  And once you'd dug deep enough to build a solid story, you probably dreamed of publishing an award-winning book-length series in a major daily (to critical acclaim of course).  Maybe that was just my dream, but it's a far cry from the state of journalism today.

NPR published an interesting story today about how investigative journalism is becoming a casualty of the times.  These hard-hitting storytellers are jumping ship to become private industry investigators and with that move, we're losing some of the spirit of the news business.  Sure, there are cases where bloggers stumble across a shocking piece of news or a document that needs to be shared.  However, the pressure to beat competitive "news" outlets to the punch often means we see the incriminating document before the story is fully baked.  You could argue that immediacy = accountability, but I'd venture to guess we lose a lot of the story in the process (the part that gets swept under the rug when the blog alarm is sounded).

So, how can we, as PR professionals help?  We can become better storytellers.  We can go beyond "the pitch" of our clients' news stories and dig up resources that speak to a trend or uncover elements beyond what's easily found on the surface.  In short, we can be the investigative arms for publications when they can't afford to keep this dying breed of reporters on their staffs.

The media industry is changing, no doubt about that, but I truly hope we can hold on to a few of the things that make it a great profession and a great public service - namely, investigative reporters.  In the meantime, we should all find a way to work collaboratively to bring shocking, scandalous and entertaining stories to life.  Because what would life be like without Dateline hiding in some decoy's suburban kitchen?

As always, we welcome your thoughts.

- Contributed by Gretchen Bender.  Follow her @gbender26