I found insight on possible reasons for that awful condition when I took the time recently to view the 2014 documentary, Black and White and Dead All Over, about the decline of print news enterprises. Especially stark has been the decline of investigative journalism, or what Sarah Palin would call, "gotcha journalism."
As a journalist I believe my job is to ask tough questions. But apparently, if they are too tough, or the person just doesn’t know the answer, or the answer is the wrong answer, the person can claim a case of “gotcha” journalism. I guess once someone claims the reporter was out to “getcha” then the focus becomes the horrible, unethical, and mud-slinging reporter, and not the candidate.In Arizona, all lying pols have to do sometimes is call up editors and publishers and accuse the reporters. The bean counters in those organizations HATE the possibility of losing either advertising revenue or access. So, reporters are reeled in and we get the Ryan Randazzo type who does nothing but kiss the asses of people like Trash Burner Bob Stump or APS president Don Brandt.
Former New York Times investigative editor Steve Engleberg mentions the concept in this fair use clip from the documentary,
The result is [when newsrooms downsize, as Gannett, parent company of the Arizona Republic just days ago AGAIN announced intent to offer early retirement to seasoned editorial staffers] that there is less scrutiny of local officials. And when nobody's watching, things happen...city councils, mayors, state governments all over the place are less watched today than they were. And that is going to result in more corruption, as sure as we're standing here.
What's that got to do with Arizona?
The Republic's direct reporting on the Arizona Corporation Commission has been grossly inadequate for the last several years. Just since the Checks and Balances Project began pressing for answers, the ONLY Republic staffer that's been pushing at all for answers (or so it appears to readers) is Laurie Roberts, a columnist. Might she be gone soon? Even her pressure on the ACC has not been enough. But if she leaves, Arizona's REALLY screwed.
Rather than our state's newspapers demanding sunshine on the ACC, they hedge. All you get out of them is "allegations that cannot be proven" because Stump refuses to disclose the content of his clandestine texting communications with Don Brandt, Sean Noble, et. al. But when those same papers reference C&BP, they now call it a "solar industry funded dark money operation."
The irony is thick enough to cut with a ginsu knife. C&BP is functioning as a de facto investigative news enterprise but the intimidated local corporate media calls it what the media, the ACC, and especially Arizona Public Service want to hide about the scandal sitting right in front of them, as plain as the nose on my face.
The Arizona Capitol Times, which functions in the role of community newspaper for the legislature, hasn't embraced any form of investigative journalism in forever. The Cap Times is the epitome of corporate media, lazy for the most part, co-dependent with overt corruption to "ensure access." Without access, they'd have no business model at all.
Then there's former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger's words,
Corrupt practices that people would never have dreamed of trying because they know that somebody would see them and write about them, they're saying, "what the hell, let's do it."
Legendary Washington Post investigator Bob Woodward puts the final exclamation point on the argument.
This, my friends, is the nugget.