One of the things I’m constantly thinking about is investigative journalism and where it’s going next (that and how to break my next story. And what to eat for dinner).
I did an interview with Northern Ireland’s newest startup blog, StartNI, about The Muckraker Report and where we hope to go with it. It’s funny how answering people’s questions helps you clarify your thinking: in this case, Adam wanted to know why we’re only publishing TMR every three months:
“Investigative journalism takes so long to do. In fact, we’re already wondering if we should push publishing back until every 4 months – or abandon the schedule altogether. We don’t want to compromise the quality of our stories by forcing ourselves to conform to a timeline. Some stories take weeks to uncover; others take months and years. I’m worried that a set schedule will place too much pressure on us.
We’ve also had endless debates about what the format should look like – rather than a collection of small snippets, should we have 2,000-30,000 word stories? Or both? Right now, we’ve settled on producing longform stories. We may decide to abandon the word “magazine” altogether because a magazine has a set schedule and I think we’d like to be more a hybrid of a magazine/book publisher.
The problem is the economics of publishing. You need to publish content regularly in order to make sales and stay afloat. Investigative journalism takes a lot of time so publishing regularly is hard – and that’s why it’s so hard to become sustainable. No one has figured out the sustainability/business model question yet so we don’t have anyone we can follow/copy/imitate – we’re literally figuring it out as we go along, mainly by making mistakes and realising, “Damn, we shouldn’t have done x, we should have done y.”
Here’s the dilemma I’m facing right now: in an age where journalists must “build their brand”, how do investigative reporters stay visible and connected with their readers? Read More