Monday, April 6, 2009

Endangered I-Teams

I-Teams have been a regular staple of local television stations in North America for more than 25 years. They vary greatly in quality. Some do genuinely important enterprise and investigative work, while others employ gimmicks and chase after easy-to-get gotcha stories.

With the current economic crisis, some stations are downsizing and eliminating their I-Teams. The American Journalism Review has a good column on this trend in its latest issue. Bill Lord of WJLA in Washington, DC expresses a common sentiment as he justifies cutting back on his I-Team. "I've got to do newscasts before I can do specialty items," Lord tells the AJR.

Those who have studied some journalism history know that viewing investigative journalism as a "specialty item" misses the significance and purpose of this genre. Holding the powerful to account is a constant need for journalism, not something to be dropped when economic times get tough. Arguably it's at times like these when hard-hitting, watchdog journalism is needed most. Miami's WFOR-TV is taking a different view. It maintains a nine-member I-Team. "We feel that, now more than ever, we need investigative reporting," News Director Adrienne Roark tells AJR. "It's what sets you apart from all the other noise out there."

Here is the full AJR column by Deborah Potter

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