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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

From Nieman Reports: Watchdog reporting is a social activity, not the work of lone wolves

“There’s a fiction perpetuated by narcissists like me that investigative reporting is the province of a few heroic lone wolves who use their superpowers to single-handedly expose and topple evildoers. Nonsense.”
Editor’s note: Our colleagues at our sister publication Nieman Reports are out with their new issue, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there for any journalist to check out. Over the next few days, we’ll share excerpts from a few of the stories that we think would be of most interest to Nieman Lab readers. Be sure to check out the entire issue.

Here, Stuart Watson of WCNC-TV in Charlotte (and a 2008 Nieman Fellow) argues we should think of watchdog reporting as a social activity, not the work of a solitary individual.

nieman-reports-spring-2013-coverOnce upon a time I was feeling rather smug having produced a series of reports that won a few trophies. Me? I’ll crawl across cut glass for a plastic trophy and a smattering of applause. There’s an entire economy propped up by insecure journalists like me spending hundreds of dollars each on award entry fees and hundreds more on trophies themselves, not to mention paying for travel to distant ballrooms and black tie dinners devoted to singing our own praises.

Then it occurred to me that before I added my thin voice to the particular issue I had reported (Medicaid dollars misspent on dentistry), I had come across similar earlier reporting in The Houston Post and on Dateline NBC. And after my reporting my friends Roberta Baskin, then at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., and Byron Harris with WFAA-TV in Dallas produced more substantive reporting on the same issue.

There’s a fiction perpetuated by narcissists like me that investigative reporting is the province of a few heroic lone wolves who use their superpowers to single-handedly expose and topple evildoers. Nonsense. Joe McCarthy didn’t fall by Edward R. Murrow alone — or by Murrey Marder, alone.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

                                   
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