The Watchdogs Have Left Their Post

Everything changes. Whether it be the seasons, the time or the location, change is inevitable. When news reporting changes, is this change a good one? Newspapers have become less partisan and impartial over the years. One person does not cover one specific topic anymore. The reporters are scattered in all areas.

Author of the article “Capital Flight,” Jodi Edna says, “Watchdogs have abandoned their post.” The quality of reporting on federal government has slipped throughout the years. Issues of the moment or “scoops” have become more popular than the old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting that happens here and there. One of the government’s largest employers, the Department of Agriculture, barely sees the eyes of a reporter anymore.

Why is this change in reporting happening?

The old-fashioned way of reporting is very time consuming. A reporter has to call all kinds of different people to get information and in the midst of it, making sure that FOIA or Freedom of Information Act requests are being made. Another reason for this change is the “unsexiness” of the stories. The current society would much rather read up on a celebrity scandal instead of a basic report on the Department of Agriculture. But these reports cannot go unnoticed.

Many hidden issues pop up unexpectedly that become way more important than the other petty issues. James Carroll, a reporter for the Washington Gannett Newspaper, was tracking government activity on “float dust” for years. Float dust is a coal dust that floats in the air and can lead to black lung disease and cause fires underground. Turns out those mining companies were falsifying records on the “float dust” and the reporting prompted the federal government to crack down. Issues like these would have not been known if this type of journalism wasn’t being performed.

Because of the reporting change in journalism, some journalists have resorted to sandwich reporting. They tackle breaking news stories and enterprise or investigative stories at the same time. “It’s a real challenge because you have day-to-day things that are breaking all the time. And you have additional responsibilities like blogs. You have to treat your enterprise stories like daily stories…Otherwise, you’ll never get to them,” Carroll said.

There is a lack of watchdogs. As a result of the lack, niche or specialty publications have developed. The problem is that these publications are geared towards specialty audiences and not the broad readership that newspapers have long targeted.

Old-fashioned reporting has to stay alive. The people who take part in this type of reporting know the topic front to back. Nowadays, the average person can become a reporter without ever having any schooling. Knowing this, it’s hard to determine what is credible.

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