We live in a truly benighted age, in which search engine optimization and leveraging social networks are starting to replace old timey journalism. Newspaper sales are dwindling and no one wants to pay the same kind of money for online ‘content’ because we feel at some inarticulate level that online ‘content’ is not as real as a bundle of paper, and therefore not worth our currency. Within the mildewy walls of this grim situation, investigative journalism is said to be ‘in decline’ and ‘on the wane’ (if both are true, then this means, paradoxically, that the decline is also on the wane – see, you insert the journalism into the decline and then place the decline on the wane. Then you pull the starter cord and watch that sucker go).
The Washington Post has come to the rescue with the Top Secret America project, an investigative piece years in the making about the state of American intelligence post-9/11. It turns out that the paranoid mania of those days created a huge perceived need for intelligence services, which contractors rushed to the fill. As the Post describes it,
What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest — and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities.
Top Secret America is internet-era journalism done right: solid investigative pieces featuring multiple media and social networks to serve the story. The site contains videos, text, maps, search functionality, blog feeds, the works. Let’s hope we see more of this kind of journalism in the days to come. I say ‘days’ because the Yellowstone Supervolcano should be punching its way through the North American continental plate any time now.