Investigative journalism the best chance newspapers have to survive: NY Times reporter

Barstow: Investigative pieces make newspapers “worth the price of admission”

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and reporter for the New York Times, David Barstow has suggested that investigative journalism is the best chance newspapers have for long-term survival.

Speaking at yesterday’s Australian Press Council conference, David Barstow, said: “We now have a real basis for demonstrating that investigative journalism, done with all rigour and professionalism, is the thing that offers us the best chance of long-term survival.”

With the New York Times reaching more than one million digital-only subscribers, Barstow argued that investigative pieces are what is convincing people to pay to subscribe and are “worth the price of admission.”

“We are now shifting from an economic model that was based on advertising revenue to one based on subscription revenue,” he said.

“The ability to do that en masse is connected to the proposition we’re making to the marketplace – that we are going to deliver the best, most in-depth investigative journalism.”

Kate McClymont

Kate McClymont: “Fostering and nurturing journalism is not something we’re doing brilliantly”

Senior reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald, Kate McClymont, agreed that investigative journalism is “a cost-effective necessity” for the future of the media.

“It is that unique content that more and more readers will want to pay for. It’s also essential for good governance in a democracy for the major newspapers of the day to hold those in power to account,” she said.

McClymont argued that “only the most robust of” media organisations can “afford to confront powerful people and organisations” and these remain the few who are producing investigative journalism.

“Just blogging about things is never going to get you the traction, you still need a major organisation to get you the traction,” she said.

Both McClymont and Barstow asserted that the future of journalism was at risk due to “fewer and fewer people making it into major organisations” and the difficulty in teaching them investigative skills.

“Long-term, I’m deeply worried because when I look around the best investigative reporters – too many of them – are old guys like me and that’s not good,” Barstow said.

McClymont also shared this concern, arguing that editors are “so busy doing everything else in their day that fostering and nurturing journalists is not something we’re doing brilliantly.”

Alison Xiao


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