"Who will do investigative journalism???", demand the newspaper purists, under the apparent delusion that you need newsprint to conduct an investigation.
COLUMBIA, MO . — Investigations that exposed local government corruption from New Orleans to Detroit, human-rights abuses by the federal government and international organized crime are among the work honored in the 2008 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards.
This year's top prize, the IRE Medal, was given to WWL-TV in New Orleans for its dogged rolling investigation of a city-run housing nonprofit that falsely claimed to have fixed homes in desperate need of repair after Hurricane Katrina, and the contractors who pocketed the money without doing the work. Through compelling story telling, the station tackled a serious issue that had received little attention and did so in the face of immense political pressure.
The awards also recognized stories that captured the nation's attention, including the Detroit Free Press's expose on the mayor's electronic messages, and those that tackled issues of international importance, such as McClatchy Newspapers's series on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
This year's winners include collaborations among news organizations and work from nontraditional newsrooms: the online-only voiceofsandiego.org, the coalition of journalists who formed the Chauncey Bailey Project, and the Center for Public Integrity and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which won the Renner crime award for detailing global organized crime in tobacco smuggling. Project winners fought court battles to examine text messages and email correspondence sent by government officials and examined cyber-warfare that exposed online security problems at federal agencies, including the Pentagon.
Looking at the full list shows that investigative reporting is happening at newspapers, yes, but also at TV stations (which got the top prize), public interest groups, and online publications like Voice of San Diego:
San Diego, California, March 31, 2009 -- The pioneering nonprofit online daily voiceofsandiego.org captured one of investigative journalism's most prestigious awards today for its year-long efforts exposing hidden bonuses and undisclosed conflicts of interest at two public redevelopment agencies.
When papers say, "if we're gone, who will keep government honest?", the answer is, every other media outlet that covers city, state and the federal government. There is nothing inherently inky about investigative journalism. Whether it's TPM, or HuffPo, or The Nation, or ProPublica, or the Center for Independent media, or local news sites like MinnPost and Voice of San Diego, or crowd-sourced citizen journalist outfits like A Better Oakland, someone will fill the void.