Do you want to make meaning? Solve a problem? Disrupt the status quo? Then solve this problem: figure out a way to monetize investigative journalism. In the new media world.
No, not just journalism, thanks, but investigative journalism. By that I mean the product of professional journalists paid to dig for (relatively) objective truth, like facts. To uncover the hidden scandals, expose the corruption, clear up the misconceptions, and look beyond the spin.
Don’t confuse investigative journalism with breaking news, gossip, politics, expertise, and opinion. Maybe — just maybe — citizen news and crowd sourcing will compete with straight news media. We’ve got Twitter, news blogs, political blogs, and self-styled expert and personal blogs, among other new media, supplying breaking news and opinion. You’ve probably read the arguments along those lines. I’ve posted about it on this blog here.
The problem is that investigative journalism is real work. It takes digging, research, interviews, and more digging, and more work. Volunteers don’t do it; professionals do it. And the organizations that pay those professionals depend, traditionally, on advertising revenues. And we’re in the midst of a rapidly changing media landscape, in which big audiences seeking impartiality are growing harder to find. The audiences are splintering, dividing into finer groups, getting lost in the long tail.
Breaking news? We get that in the new media world. In-depth reporting? Not so much. New York Times online? Washington Post online? Maybe. But your local town government? Who covers that? And are a few online sites of former great newspapers enough? Will the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report generate budgets and credibility for proactive in-depth reporting? What do you think?
So, in this new world, is somebody going to sponsor true investigative journalism? Will the Watergates of the future be uncovered? For that matter, who’s going to go to those town council meetings?
So there’s a problem; a need. Do you have a solution?