Custodians of Conscience: Investigative Journalism and Public Virtue

Custodians of Conscience: Investigative Journalism and Public Virtue

Custodians of Conscience: Investigative Journalism and Public Virtue

Custodians of Conscience: Investigative Journalism and Public Virtue

Synopsis

This book is the culmination of more than a decade of research and writing on the nature of investigative journalism as a form of social and moral inquiry. Focusing on the work of a number of award-winning investigative reporters, James S. Ettema and Theodore L. Glasser punctuate their analysis of news and journalism with interviews with these writers and excerpts from their stories. Custodians of Conscience provides a powerful assessment and critique of the tensions and contradictions that characterize modern American journalism. It is a book that honors the rigor and importance of investigative journalism by showing how facts implicate values and by explaining why the future of news requires a deeper appreciation for the connection between human knowledge and human interest.

Excerpt

This book is the result of a scholarly and friendly collaboration that has spanned more than a decade—a collaboration between us, the authors, of course, but also with the journalists whose thoughtful commentary and distinguished reporting are recorded here. Our project began in the 1980s at the University of Minnesota, where we both had faculty appointments in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Specifically, it began as a pilot study, funded by the University of Minnesota Graduate School, of WCCO Television's “I-Team,” an investigative reporting unit at the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. With this case study we gained additional funding from what was then the Gannett Foundation, now the Freedom Forum, that we used to interview award-winning investigative reporters across the United States. Those interviews continued through the mid-1990s.

For whatever it's worth, ours is a study of journalists designated by other journalists as among the best reporters doing the best reporting. For our interviews we sought out newspaper and television reporters whose investigations had won national recognition from their peers: a Pulitzer Prize, an Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award, or an Alfred I. duPont—Columbia University Award in Television and Radio Journalism. And among those, we sought out reporters recommended by other reporters. Not everyone recommended could be interviewed, of course, but everyone we interviewed had earned the respect of others who practice the craft.

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