Monday, April 1, 2013

Investigative Journalism as a Public Good: The ProPublica Model

Here is a video from an interesting report on ProPublica the not-for-profit investigative journalism outfit that is funded mostly by donations.  This quote by the Editor in Chief is essentially correct, but I would use the analogy of police officers and firefighters rather than symphonies and ballets:

"We look at this as what you might call a public good – much like the symphony or the ballet," said ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg. "The free market will not produce an optimum amount of investigative reporting."

There is a big difference in how society would look without the former and much less wouthout the latter. I put a free and functional press in the former category.  I love ProPublica but I worry that this is still a poor substitute for a lively press.

Here in São Paulo there are two competing dailies still and two more big ones in Rio that all have national breadth.   Plus a bunch more in many other cities like A Tarde in Bahia.  When the weekday paper arrives at my door, usually with 5 or more sections and a lot thicker than The Oregonian I am reminded of how much we have lost in the US.

In fact, I often compare today's São Paulo with the US of 15 years ago in term of thriving newspapers, magazines and bookstores.  Those were the days...I give Brazil about 10 years.

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