The Power of Investigative Journalism

December 31, 2014

The founding fathers envisioned the news media as watchdogs against government corruption. Sadly, the news media itself has become so corrupted by political bias that journalists now work harder to defeat conservative initiatives than government misconduct. Occasionally, however, news organizations manage to fulfill the noble role for which the framers had hoped.

December 20, 2014, the Los Angeles Times published a story headlined “Produce industry promised to improve Mexican farmworker conditions.” The article announced pledges from government agencies and industry marketing groups to crack down on the secret abuse of the migrant workers who cultivate so much of the Mexican fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S.

The reforms were forced by a series of Times investigative articles which shocked readers and embarrassed producers and sellers of Mexican produce. The newspaper named names, calling out Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Olive Garden for buying produce cultivated by child laborers, etc. Now, if only the Times would expose the horrific abuse of unborn children in the U.S. and Mexico. They won’t, so we will. The farmworker articles documented child abuse with huge, disturbing pictures. The effectiveness of this sort of photojournalism is precisely why we shock the public with huge, disturbing photos of unborn children.

Nine days later, December 29, 2014, USA Today newspaper followed suit with an investigative story titled “Finally wanted: The chase is on again,” with a sub-headline which read, “Suspects have been escaping charges by skipping borders.” Referring to its earlier coverage of prosecutorial malfeasance, the paper reported that exposing official misconduct had humiliated law enforcement officials and forced change:

“The newspaper found this year that more than 330,000 accused felons – including some wanted in rapes and murders – can escape the charges against them merely by crossing a state border because police and prosecutors secretly decided in advance not to go that far to retrieve them. In the months that followed, [shamed] officials from Florida to Pennsylvania reversed those decisions by the thousands, informing the FBI that they intend to retrieve fugitives from anyplace in the USA.”

Exposing hidden injustice is often the only effective means of protecting otherwise defenseless victims. The public is unaware of invisible scandal or tends to underestimate its ugliness. USA Today will never reveal the concealed scandal of abortion, so we will. And each time we do, people of conscience reverse depraved decisions.

Posted in Social Reform