Now more than ever, the public has grown increasingly aware of the crisis that is 21st century journalism. With the rise of the web, newspapers have been falling by the wayside, facing dilemmas of funding and direction, and have been increasingly replaced by digital content, both affiliated with established news organizations and otherwise. Back in the day (in the early 21st century), I remember being told by adults to be skeptical of everything on the internet, when the words “truth” and “internet” would rarely be used in a sentence without sarcasm. Now it has surpassed newspapers as a trusted source of information, but with detrimental consequences. We’re seeing the world of fake news come into the spotlight, highlighted by its role in the past election, and social media platforms such as Facebook are feeling the pressure to introduce editorial standards.
While fake news may be getting all the attention and glory, the internet has also given rise to deep, thoughtful and vital reporting by providing convenient access to a wealth of information, the capacity for on-the-spot fact checking and, most importantly, data. The best reporting of the digital age, and our beacon of hope moving forward, is investigative data journalism. Below are some of the rare, trustworthy, organizations who commit themselves to ethical truth seeking.
The non-profit Pulitzer prize winning publication was brought forth by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger in 2007, and is now run by fellow newspaper veterans Stephen Engelberg and Richard Tofel. According to their website, they developed their commitment to original digital reporting as a response to the content mines that emerged and grew to dominate the internet. As that domination has continued, ProPublica’s commitment to established journalistic ethics and use of new media to enhance reporting has become more important than ever.
Established in 1975 with the intent of improving investigative reporting by offering a forum for journalists and editors to connect and collaborate, the role of IRE has become increasingly crucial given the rise of digital media. They had the foresight in 1989 to launch an offshoot program, NICAR (National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting), which has provided training and analysis to journalists ever since.
FAIR was founded in 1986 and, like IRE, has proven to be more valuable than anyone could have imagined at the time. The organization has remained true to its original mission of acting as a watchdog of the media and bringing light to first amendment issues such as censorship, bias and marginalization in reporting.