Slugger Awards (Media) Pitch: Searchlight on Government

This is one of several I have in mind. But this category would include campaigns and high quality investigations that reveal what’s going on under the surface of ministerial accountability to include the bureaucracy, quangos and watchdogs . This is particularly important in a political system without a formal opposition. Candidates would be asked to assess the role of FOI and pre-emptive government disclosure of papers in their reporting.

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Slugger is now looking for pitches from people to turn the best from our long list of ideas into an actual award category. So we’re asking you to email Mick (editor@sluggerotoole.com) with a suggested title for your category and a 100 word outline of what it means in practice.

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  • joeCanuck

    Brian,
    Does that overlap with my pitch for Investigative Journalism?

  • Joe,

    Shortly, everyone who has written one of these will be asked to load it up into an easy-to-use clever bit of voting software that we’ve been loaned. At that point you will be able to tweak your idea. I’d suggest that you focus on investigative journalism of the variety that doesn’t *just* involve sending out FoI requests – particularly investigations into organisations that don’t even have to respond to them.

    Because some hacks thing that sending out FoI requests = investigative journalism, it means that the private sector gets a bit of a free-ride. A non-neutral political outcome, I would suggest?

  • Brian Walker

    Joe, I don’t claim copyright on the idea. Clever investigative journalism is essential but very expensive.

    Given a shrinking newspaper market investigations have become rarer in the traditional model of a few big splashes per story, Only TV can afford to do big investigations regularly.

    The alternative is to do investigations iteratively, like MPs expenses or double jobbing, so well reported David Gordon,or the Adams brothers by Suzanne Breen and the Irish News. But endlessly unfolding stories like these don’t happen every day.

    Blogs, citizen’s journalism and interaction generally both lay and expert can play a bigger part. Bluntly the papers can get some of their expertise and range for free from journalistic amateurs who have a much broader base than the professionals.

    Whistleblowers can inform blogs either directly or by briefing the blogger as with NI Water.in this category. Whole cadres can join in to develop the analysis and add supporting detail from their own experience.

    But traditional standards of editoral control must apply.

    It seems ot me that Slugger, Mick’s Big Idea for a uniquely diverse forum, can play a part to focus on investigation and to chivvy the MSM to raise their game. Slugger seems to have already captured a fair slice of the informed audience.

    In turn, the MSM should also credit Slugger when it contributes.

    A point to Paul. Yes FOI requests by themselves don’t merit the status of investigation. But asking the right FOI question can be a minor art in itself.

  • Brian,

    Yes – I’d agree with that. My concern is that FoI offers low-hanging fruit and makes the public sector an easier hunting-ground for investigative journalists.

    If journalists end up only looking to the public sector for evidence of wrongdoing, that (to my socialist eyes) looks like a poor political outcome.

  • joeCanuck

    Good point , Paul. A good journalist needs to cultivate a wide range of contacts to get the inside stories, buy an occasional lunch dependent on the largesse of the proprietor.
    Good point by you too , Brian. It has been stressed here on Slugger, even by insiders, that you have to be clever in what you ask for and how you word the request.