Chuck Lewis Shares 3 Signs of Change in Investigative Journalism

The people around me gave me goosebumps, said Professor Chuck Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity and AU’s new Investigative Reporting Workshop. He’s dug his hands into some of the nation’s most sensitive information, including a secret draft “Patriot II” legislation, smuggling in major tobacco companies, and lobbying records for major contractors like Haliburton in Iraq. According to American’s Web site, Lewis said, “What both journalism and democracy need right now are new economic models to support the work involved with bringing forth in-depth, multimedia news.”

There’s great potential for “kick ass, magnificent,” investigative reporting, he said. The question is, just how much room will there be?

A lot of I-teams have been cut, he says. He noted a few “sign posts” in the world signifying the shifting ground.

1) In 2008, the Pulitzer Prize opened eligibility to online news publishers. “The keepers of the flame have decided the best journalism can come from elsewhere.”

2) The AP has invited 4 nonprofit investigative units to join them. The AP would be able to post their content on the AP wire. He said it was remarkable that the AP came to them.

3) Six of 20+ nonprofit investigative centers are at universities.

He says, the future of investigative reporting could lie with nonprofits or universities. American University, for example, has become a hotbed for investigative work, he says.

Lewis regularly involves students in his work–news that perked the ears of many fellow classmates. Students in his course did four videos, eight multimedia projects, and become eligible for prizes worth thousands of dollars. Students can apply for his assistantship position this fall.

Journalists today will decide their own fate with self-marketing. “Your destiny is yours to seize,” he said.

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