It’s not quite “American Idol” for journalists, but Muckraker: The Truth in Reality aims to combine the popular reality show format with hard-hitting investigative journalism.
Developed by 2012 Knight fellows Djordje Padejski and Beth Daley, and Stanford graduate students So-Eun Park, Archer Zhang, Laura Liu He, and Saman Ghani Khan, the project’s goal is to find an innovative way to bring investigative journalism to a younger audience.
“In the media market, there is extreme interest in developing original-content Web channels,” Padejski said. He referred to the Knight Foundation’s recent $800,000 grant to the Center of Investigative Reporting for its effort to launch an investigative YouTube channel.
Daley said the process is still an experiment, but the concept is for professional journalists, freelancers, or community activists to submit a 30-second video pitch (or they can submit a written pitch) for an investigative story. Once the production team selects the topics, a panel of journalists and a video crew will be assigned to each story for about six weeks. Each week, clips will be posted as the story develops, and, at the end, a final video product will be shown. Viewers will then vote for the best story. Daley said most likely, the prize will be a partnership between the winner and a media publication.
Daley, who has been a reporter for The Boston Globe
since 1994, said she was skeptical when Padejski first approached her with the idea. “Investigative reporting is the gold ring for journalism. People hold it dearly and take it seriously, so when (Padejski) wanted to find a way to ‘make it fun,’ I was taken aback.”
But once Daley realized it was possible to combine entertainment with serious journalism, she was on board. She also said she couldn’t ignore the fact that from 1985 to 2012, the number of entries for the Pulitzer Prize in the public service category had dropped 42 percent, as reported by the Investigative Reporting Workshop, a professional journalism center in the School of Communication at American University.
“I saw investigative reporting disappearing, and I saw (this project) as a way to bring it back,” she said. “It was something worth exploring.”
Padejski is known as one of Serbia’s leading investigative journalists. He said Muckraker would also create a platform for social issues and to promote journalists’ work.
Padejski said he plans to launch Muckraker by October, with the initial run limited to San Francisco (he currently resides in the Bay Area). The team will spend the summer raising funds. Padejski is also exploring a partnership with Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.
A prototype of the project can be found at muckrakershow.com