Wick Communications

Praising ‘Democracy’s Detectives’

In journalism on 13 Oct 2016 at 1:45 pm


Here is a book that I haven’t read but am willing to suggest is a must-read for people who love journalism and wish for it to endure. It’s Jay Hamilton’s “Democracy’s Detectives.”

Hamilton is a trained economist (which is putting it lightly… Hamilton earned his Ph.D in economics from Harvard) and the director of the Stanford University Journalism Program. (Since I’m recommending a book sight unseen, I should say I know Jay just enough to know he is a terrific gentleman and a fantastic leader of the Stanford program.)

He has written extensively about the intersection of commerce and communications. This book is subtitled, “The Economics of Investigative Journalism.” From what I have read, the book makes the economic case for such difficult work. He uses complicated economic tools and specific examples, like The Raleigh News and Observer’s Pat Stith, to prove that even expensive investigations that take months to wrestle into print can pay massive dividends to society at large. And he notes that doing that work can differentiate a media organization from the din thereby making your enterprise more profitable.

In his post about Hamilton’s book, Poynter contributor Rick Edmonds notes that the ranks of local journalists have thinned by 40 percent in the last decade. My guess is that. as a result, corruption and things in need of investigating have risen by more than 40 percent in that time. Why? Because investigative journalism — and the patience and resources required to do it right — has been the first thing jettisoned by many a short-sighted news corporation and corruption loves a dark vacuum. …

Which brings me to an economic question of my own: What is the cost to society of the investigative journalism that is not done?

I promise I’ll read “Democracy’s Detectives.” Perhaps the answer lies within.


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