The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism

The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism

The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism

The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism

Synopsis

Beginning with America's first newspaper, investigative reporting has provided journalism with its most significant achievements and challenging controversies. Yet it was an ill-defined practice until the 1960s when it emerged as a potent voice in newspapers and on television news programs. In The Evolution of American Investigative Journalism, James L. Aucoin provides readers with the first comprehensive history of investigative journalism, including a thorough account of the founding and achievements of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). Aucoin begins by discussing in detail the tradition of investigative journalism from the colonial era through the golden age of muckraking in the 1900s, and into the 1960s. Subsequent chapters examine the genre's critical period from 1960 to 1975 and the founding of IRE by a group of journalists in the 1970s to promote investigative journalism and training methods. Through the organization's efforts, investigative journalism has evolved into a distinct practice, with defined standards and values. Aucoin applies the social-moral development theory of Alasdair MacIntyre-who has explored the function, development, and value of social practices-to explain how IRE contributed to the evolution of American investigative journalism. Also included is a thorough account of IRE's role in the controversial Arizona Project. After Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles (a founding member of IRE) was murdered while investigating land fraud, scores of reporters from around the country descended on the area to continue his work. The Arizona Project brought national attention and stature to the fledgling IRE and was integral to its continuing survival. Emerging investigative reporters and editors, as well as students and scholars of journalism history, will benefit from the detailed presentation and insightful discussion provided in this book.

Excerpt

The answer to the question “How healthy is investigative journalism as the practice moves into the twenty-first century?” depends on who is taking its pulse. Many investigative reporters are not optimistic about the prognosis. Because of their commitment to investigative journalism, they have been rarely satisfied with the resources allocated to such reporting by newspaper publishers and TV news managers. For example, many of the members of the national organization of investigative journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. (IRE), were unhappy with the quality of care publishers and station managers gave the practice in 2002. Freelance reporter Randy Dotinga, writing in the industry magazine Editor and Publisher, reported that investigative journalists at the IRE conference in San Diego were grim about the future of their craft: “Reporters say they face a federal government bent on keeping information to itself in the war on terror, as well as a newspaper industry more worried about profits than Pulitzers—and less likely to send someone out to file a Freedom of Information Act request in the first place.” That represents a seismic shift in perspective from Editor and Publisher's report on the IRE national conference held in 1998, only four years earlier. The report then carried the headline “Investigative Journalism Is Alive and Well.” The subhead was even more upbeat: “A record IRE turnout in New Orleans suggests hard-boiled exposés remain newsroom staples.” That year, KCOP-TV in Los Angeles announced it was expanding its commitment to investigative reporting and the recruitment boards at the conference were overflowing with job . . .

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