New model for investigative reporting?

Everyone knows that newsrooms have been cutting staff and shrinking their budgets. When there aren’t enough people to get the daily job done, in-depth reporting can suffer. What’s to be done?

Chuck Lewis thinks he has an answer. The founder of the Center for Public Integrity is launching a new “workshop” at American University in Washington to produce “demonstration projects” for investigative journalism. He plans to bring in “all-star” journalists as senior fellows, involve students in reporting and writing stories, and partner with news organizations to disseminate the stories.

What makes it different than anything in the country is that we’re going to look to incubate new models of doing investigative journalism. It’s in great peril at the moment and is in free-fall. This kind of journalism is the most expensive, time-consuming and risky in terms of litigation. This is really extraordinarily ambitious — and some would say foolhardy. I’ve done a lot of work in the non-profit world, and the fact is that we need new models that will help pay for this work. And it might not just be some exciting investigative reporting centers; it might be something better, larger, with greater impact than that.

Lewis talked about his plans with Mark Glaser at MediaShift just as another new reporting model is making its debut. The non-profit Pro Publica project will air its first investigation, a joint effort with 60 Minutes, on CBS Sunday night. Pro Publica reporter Dafna Linzer contributed to the piece about the U-S funded Arabic language channel Al-Hurra, and will publish a separate multipart series on the project’s Web site.