The ROI on investigative journalism

Donald Trump’s hot mic story is certainly the hottest story of the day and perhaps the campaign season.

But the story behind the story should be more interesting for journalists.

David Fahrenthold, an investigative reporter for the Washington Post, broke the story Friday afternoon. Fahrenthold covers the 2016 presidential campaign, but mostly he’s been investigating Trump’s taxes, his charitable contributions and the Trump Foundation. He’s been public and transparent, particularly on Twitter. And that brings us to Friday’s story.

From the Post’s story about the story: Reporter David Fahrenthold got a phone call around 11 a.m. Friday from a source with a tip about Donald Trump. The source asked: Would Fahrenthold be interested in seeing some previously unaired video of Trump?

My belief is that Fahrenthold’s source knew Fahrenthold from his investigative work. The guy’s a tough-minded, courageous reporter. If you have a bottle of nitro that is going to explode, you want to give it to someone who knows what to do with it. Someone who disn’t going to wilt under pressure. The source found the right guy and the right publication. Worth noting: NBC had the same tape, but didn’t use it until after it heard Fahrenthold was on the story.

The lesson for journalists and, more important, owners of news organizations: Invest in long-term investigative reporting. Oh, investigative reporting is expensive? You need to see a ROI?

There’s this: Fahrenthold’s story proved to be the most concurrently viewed article in the history of The Post’s website; more than 100,000 people read it simultaneously at one point on Friday. The interest was so heavy that it briefly crashed the servers of the newspaper’s internal tracking system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *