Belated congratulations to ProPublica, which recently won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. The honor is especially exciting because it puts a spotlight on an emerging form of journalism that — thanks to this kind of recognition — we hopefully will see more of.
ProPublica, for those unaware, is a non-profit organization that produces investigative news stories. It’s roots are independent, but as in the case with the Pulitzer-winning piece, they will collaborate with traditional media — in this case the New York Times Magazine. They’ve been around since 2007 and although they operate in the public interest, the public is generally unaware they exist.
They also serve a need that’s arisen as news organizations are faced to do what they did so well with fewer resources. The ProPublica prototype is a great foundation for creating independent companies that could provide services, resources and expertise to news orgs that are unable to do the kind of work they used to do.
I like to call this ‘hired-gun journalism.’ If a newspaper has a special project or investigative piece they would like to do, but cannot afford to dedicate a reporter to it, they could call upon a ‘hired gun’ organization to step in and help handle the piece. The outsiders could have the expertise to either handle the entire project, or they could just work the time-consuming information gathering and distillation process, leaving it to the newspaper staff to write the piece. Fees could be on a sliding scale, but it would still be less expensive than using the existing staff.
The Pulitzer for ProPublica gives the organization stature and respect among the traditional media, as well as some good press to the public. That respect could translate into a new way of doing journalism in the next decade, and as a result help save a fundamental of journalism that is highly needed in our society, yet is falling victim to shrinking dollars and resources.
Way to go, ProPublica!