In our increasingly globalized world, it is more important than ever for U.S. citizens to understand other cultures and countries. Investigative journalism allows reporters to educate the public. Journalists strive to discover the reality of situations and share what they find with their audience.
In recent years, I have noticed fewer media outlets producing long-form journalism. ‘The Daily Show’ investigated investigative journalism Monday, January 14, 2013. Daily Show correspondent John Oliver met with Kaj Larsen, an investigative reporter who worked for CNN before they cut their investigative unit.
You read correctly: On March 22, 2012, Media Bistro broke the story that CNN eliminated nearly its entire investigative news department. In the ‘Daily Show’ piece, professional media analyst Brad Adgate of SVP Research, Horizon Media, explains to Oliver that, “investigative journalism…is usually the first one out because it’s not a profit center.” Adgate suggests that Skype interviews and talking heads decrease costs and increase viewership. Oliver then points out the absurdity of financial concerns when thousands are spent on interactive technologies like hologram reporters. Finally, in the absence of a real-world opportunity for investigative journalism, Oliver learns that Larsen now pitches story ideas for the fictional HBO show ‘News Room’.
To me, this seems a question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Does investigative journalism make less money because people like Adgate say it is less popular, thereby influencing people to watch other things? Or do people watch other things, thereby leading people like Adgate to document and vocalize a decreasing interest in investigative journalism?
Either way, I challenge news consumers to consider how they contribute to what goes on the air. I struggle to understand people who complain about poor quality journalism, then choose to watch and support poor quality journalism. News agencies are still businesses, and as such, they follow the money. If more people watch partisan news, talking heads, and technological gimmicks, news agencies will invest in producing partisan news, talking heads, and technological gimmicks.
Audiences have the power influence news. If more news consumers demand long-form pieces, perhaps investigative journalism will survive.