In this time of shrinking newsrooms and shrinking budgets, it’s tougher and tougher for reporters to do good watchdog journalism. But I just read two great examples in local newspapers.
What do I mean by “watchdog” journalism?
I mean journalists going out and checking up on public officials and making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to.
Rarley can blogs or online “news” sites pull off these kind of stories. (In fact, there are some online “news” outlets that just run government press releases verbatim! For shame!)
These stories are not exactly Watergate, but you’ll see that they are still pretty important.
The first example comes from my own newspaper.
Ever since the July 5 deadline to file to run for office, my colleagues Scott Daugherty, Liam Farrell and Elisabeth Hulette have been poring over public records related to the candidates who are running for county government offices.
My colleagues have done a great job poking around to find out the kind of things candidates don’t want you to know. I’m sure we’ll be poking around all the way through November.
Check out this story, where we learn that one County Council candidate has a warrant out for his arrest, and another County Council candidate had two charges related to her work in a group home. A sidebar explains the mostly minor legal issues related to other candidates.
My second example is a project by the fine reporters at The Daily Record.
The Daily Record focuses on business and legal news. Their reporters went out to check if public court documents were, indeed, available to the public.
I wasn’t surprised to read that clerks tried to thwart the public records requests, often without good reason. Click on over and check out their story.
And last but not least, I’m going to plug a little story I did about dishwasher detergent, although it’s more of a consumer and environmental story than a true watchdog story.
I know, dishwasher detergent is not as exciting as political candidates with court records! But hey, laws are made because we’re supposed to be better off for following them.
Well, I found out that five of 10 local stores were still stocking illegal dishwasher detergent, which was banned because it contributes a bit to the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality woes.
Have you seen good watchdog journalism lately? I’d love to hear some examples. Reading these stories gives me hope for journalism!