Investigative reporting benefits society

I haven’t read James T. Hamilton’s book, “Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism,” but I sure plan to. I’m inspired by this Q&A with Hamilton by Laurie Beth Harris at the American Press Institute. One of his three case studies is the work of the News & Observer.

Some highlights:

  • “I find that for each dollar invested in an investigative story, there can be over $100 in benefits to society.”
  • His lessons for journalists are: Pursue government records, and team up and partner, and provide transparency of your work.
  • “When The News & Observer did an investigative series on the probation system that decreased murders in North Carolina, if the paper had been able to capture just 10 percent of the net benefits to society from that series, they could have hired more than 90 new reporters. Going to individual donors or foundations to support the public goods provided by accountability reporting could generate more investigative work.”
  • “When you tell important stories that are unique, you develop a brand for quality and a reputation for offering what cannot be easily found elsewhere.”