Monday, June 15, 2009

A.P. Moves to Share Investigative Journalism of Non-Profits

This weekend I was following the news coming out of Iran and the lack of information as to what is really happening on the ground there. Obviously, it's a difficult place to investigate news stories and this gets to the fundamental problem we have today: Good news reporting is expensive! More importantly, as newspapers close, the whole chain of news reporting is breaking. Most television news and blogs get their source information from other newspapers, not from being on the ground, so if newspapers keep folding the question then becomes who is going to pay for news reporting?

In past blogs we have covered some of the scenarios (here and here), but this weekend stuffed in the newspapers was a big announcement that the Associated Press (AP) is launching a six-month experiment in investigative journalism with various news non-profits. This is a sure sign that the media is taking steps to address the void in investigative journalism, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

You can find the article here.

A.P. in Deal to Deliver Nonprofits’ Journalism

Four nonprofit groups devoted to investigative journalism will have their work distributed by The Associated Press, The A.P. will announce on Saturday, greatly expanding their potential audience and helping newspapers fill the gap left by their own shrinking resources.

Starting on July 1, the A.P. will deliver work by the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and ProPublica to the 1,500 American newspapers that are A.P. members, which will be free to publish the material.

The A.P. called the arrangement a six-month experiment that could later be broadened to include other investigative nonprofits, and to serve its nonmember clients, which include broadcast and Internet outlets.

“It’s something we’ve talked about for a long time, since part of our mission is to enable our members to share material with each other,” said Sue Cross, a senior vice president of The A.P. She said the development in 2006 of an Internet-based system for members to receive A.P. material made it easier to do that kind of sharing, and to offer new products like the investigative service.

As they sharply reduce their staffs, many newspapers have cut back on investigations or given them up entirely. When there are barely enough reporters to cover the daily news from the local courthouse and the school board, it is harder to justify assigning someone to an in-depth project that might take weeks or months.

At the same time, independent groups doing investigative journalism have grown in number and size, fueled by foundations and wealthy patrons, and are offering their work to newspapers, magazines, television and radio news programs, and news Web sites. ProPublica was created in 2007 and the Investigative Reporting Workshop in 2008. The Center for Investigative Reporting has operated for more than three decades, and is doubling in size. The four groups combined have more than 50 professional journalists.

Each group operates a little differently, but in general they have made deals one by one with outlets that wanted to use their work. (Though ProPublica’s Web home page also has a tab that urges “Steal Our Stories.”) But soon, their projects will be part of the stream of material The A.P. delivers to its members, and a single project could be published by dozens of newspapers.

“Our goal here is getting more eyeballs on what we do, and the nonprofit sector is really picking up steam,” said Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, based in Berkeley, Calif.

In some cases, he said, the nonprofit groups might still make exclusive arrangements with a partner in traditional media, in which case the work would not immediately go out to A.P. members.


Jonathan Eyler-Werve said...

I think your headline is backwards -- the AP is sharing investigations FROM nonprofits, not with them. These are nonprofits that are trying to fill the gap, not the other way around. The AP's only contribution is to add the free content to their wire feed.

disclosure - years ago I worked at the Center for Public Integrity, one of the groups that has a deal with the AP.

Charlie Mahoney said...

Thanks for your correction Jonathan. You are absolutely right.