Looking forward to the future of journalism

Investigating why investigative reporters are losing their jobs


Laura Frank, a former investigative reporter for the shuttered Rocky Mountain News in Denver, focused her sights on the newspaper industry in this PBS Exposé package, “The Withering Watchdog: What Really Happened to Investigative Reporting in America.” The story features a former colleague of mine, Mc Nelly Torres, an investigative reporter who used to work for the San Antonio Express-News. She moved to Florida several years ago and was recently laid off at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Laura examined the reasons why so many journalists — many of them investigative reporters who held the powerful accountable — are losing their jobs:

Read more: How to contact an investigative reporter

The story line has been repeated time after time: The internet is killing mainstream media, sending the Fourth Estate into record-breaking revenue declines. Online ads garner only a fraction of the dropping print revenue. When faced with cuts, investigative reporting is often the first target. Investigative journalism takes more time and more experienced journalists to produce, and it often involves legal battles. It’s generally the most expensive work the news media undertake.

But an Exposé original investigation has found there’s more to the story.

The decline in investigative reporting — the in-depth stories that hold the powerful accountable in a democracy — began long before the current economic collapse. The crisis that has pundits worried about the survival of serious journalism in America began with what the journalism industry did to itself.

The package includes a chart tracking the profits of the largest, publicly traded newspaper companies over the past 20 years, and video interviews with media advocates who point out that many newspapers are still profitable, and that newspapers fought and paid for the legal battles that helped form the foundation of our open society.