Investigative Journalism Still Lives

Just when you think journalism is dead, a story comes along that breathes life back into the body politic. This American Life’s Ira Glass investigated a heart-breaking story about a judge in Georgia who has sequestered young folks for months and even years for misdemeanors that other judges wave off with a fine.

The story (available at the link below) reminds me of why I got into journalism in the first place. When I graduated high school in Holland and journeyed to the US for college, I eagerly read how journalists reported on Watergate and Richard Nixon’s demise. I became a regular listener of Berkeley’s investigative radio station KPFA and, when I could find a TV, watched evening news programs like 60 Minutes.

A pivotal moment was a ground-breaking TV story in 1972, when a young reporter went undercover to expose conditions at a mental health facility in New York. The story resulted in widespread reform and the reporter earned a coveted Peabody Award. In 1980, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 was passed to protect folks with mental illness.

And the reporter? Geraldo Rivera continued to do news reports until his ego overtook his investigative spirit. But other reporters, such as Watergate’s Bob Woodward, have continued in the journalistic vein, exposing corruption that has resulted in social reform.

And me? I study the investigators and still believe in the establishment we call journalism. Ira Glass’s story has renewed my faith and my spirit. You should listen.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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2 Responses to Investigative Journalism Still Lives

  1. So you know all about the first person to do that undercover story…in the 19th century…? Nellie Bly did it, in 1887, faking mental illness for 10 days to do a searing expose of NYC’s asylums.

    Long live investigative journalism and those who fund it! Without their cash, (and journos’ commitment to it) nothing can happen.


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