Sunday, June 17, 2012

Salt Lake Tribune: Tribune Wins National Watchdog Journalism Award

Don't ever let anyone tell you that old-fashioned watchdog journalism is dead

A Weber County Forum Tip O" the Hat to The Salt Lake Tribune, this week's recipient of a highly prestigious peer-to-peer national journalism award. Here are the lead paragraphs from this morning's Trib story:
Boston • The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday received a national award for service to the First Amendment for its coverage of HB477, the bill the 2011 Legislature passed and later repealed that would have dramatically weakened Utah’s open-records law.

Investigative Reporters & Editors, a national watchdog journalism organization, presented the newspaper with a prestigious IRE Special Recognition Award for Service to The First Amendment at a luncheon at its annual conference.

Nearly 1,200 investigative reporters from around the country gave the paper a standing ovation during the presentation, and IRE board members praised the importance of The Tribune’s work.

The award from IRE recognized The Tribune staff for their "reporting, editorial stance and lobbying efforts to keep Utah’s open-records laws intact."
Check out the full story here:
The Trib fought like a badger to raise public awareness of the Utah Legislature's ham-handedness with respect to the ill-conceived HB 477.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that old-fashioned watchdog journalism is dead.


Bob Becker said...

Re: "
Don't ever let anyone tell you that old-fashioned investigative journalism is dead."

The Trib did good work on the sneak attempt by GOP House and Senate leaders to gut GRAMA, but investigative reporting was not involved.  It was covering, and covering well, a fast breaking story. It was recognized for its watchdog role alerting its readers to what was happening in this fast breaking story, and for its strong editorial stand on the matter. It was a special award for "service to the First Amendment."  And it was deserved.  But  it was not honored for investigative reporting.  [As I recall, the SE didn't do a half bad job covering the subject either, with considerably fewer resources than the Trib had, nor did it take any less of a strong editorial stand against the GOP's stealth attempt to hide what its legislators are about, session in and session out.]

As for true investigative reporting per se, it's not dead, but it's on life support at newspapers across the land.  In the face of declining ad revenues and repeated staff cuts, assigning reporters to long-developing investigative reporting is a luxury many papers say  they can no longer afford to indulge.   Take the recently gutted New Orleans Times-Picayune.  Going to three day a week publication and cut about a third of its newsroom staff. Surviving reporters told they'll now be expected to post to short items all day long rather than devote their time to "long-form stories" [which of course includes investigative reporting].  The paper just won a prestigious award for an investigative piece on corruption in city government it recently printed. The two reporters who worked on the award-winning story were let go in the recent bloodletting staff cuts... and they day after they were told they were being fired, posted a bragging notice about the award their investigative reporting had won for the paper.  Talk about chutzpah.....

Interesting that recently, some very big awards for investigative journalism have gone to very small papers, covering counties or small towns. 

As for investigative journalism in Utah, the Trib [very] occasionally does some, but the best consistent source of investigative journalism in Utah currently is, I think, Salt Lake's alt-paper, the City Weekly

rudizink said...

Good point, Bob.  I've now modified the article subtitle, to recognize  your fair distinction.

Gotta reiterate though how proud I am of the guys and gals @ the Trib this morning, regardless of how we label their heroic efforts.

Bob Becker said...

Flying Spaghetti Monster help us if watchdog journalism ever goes entirely dead, and papers sink wholly into Happy News [DN], press-release journalism [on city matters, sadly too often the SE], or celebrity news and sports only.  But as website-clicks are increasingly the measure of "success" at papers [who generates more "trending" stories on line], that's what seems to be happening:  the Jersey-shoring of American news.

When Jefferson wrote " were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them, " he was not fooling around. [Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ] 

Googleboy said...

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

What a concept!

Dan S. said...

Bob, it's highly unfair to the Tribune for you to suggest that the S-E's reporting on HB 477 was in any way comparable. The Trib broke the story and was on top of it from then on, covering virtually every angle. The S-E was playing catch-up the whole time, often relying on second-hand AP stories, and never mentioned many of the aspects that the Trib explored in detail. And while I agree that the initial reporting wasn't "investigative", some of the Trib's follow-up stories would, I think, fall into that category.

Bob Becker said...


That's why the Trib got the award and not the SE or any other news souce that hopped aboard once the Trib broke the story. Merely noted that the SE' s coverage was, given its limited resources for covering SLC events ( like legislative sessions) " not half bad." I think I can stand by that assessment without needing to apologize to the Trib for being "highly unfair." Or unfair at all.

Dan S. said...

Bob, I still say your comparison was unfair. For one thing, you didn't say "given its limited resources"; you said "with considerably fewer resources"--which is different. By all means, praise the S-E for the editorial position it took on the issue. But I don't think there's any basis to mention its coverage in the news section alongside that of the Trib. There's simply no comparison.

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