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07/19/2006 Archived Entry: "Investigative reporting & being one link in the chain"

BEING PART OF SOMETHING. Mostly blogging is just noise. It may be entertaining noise or informative noise. But not much of it is substantive noise.

Oh, every once in a while you get The Power of the Blogosphere behind some story or scandal. Or along comes the occasional Radley Balko, who's done such dogged work on the Cory Maye case and on the whole issue of police-state SWAT raids. But without taking any credit away from his superb blogging, Balko is being paid by the Cato Institute to investigate police-statism. So awesome though he is, I doubt he's risking his doggies' kibble to dig deep for this life-saving data.

Now and then, somebody will pass along to me a lead on an important story developing somewhere in the world. Once in a while, it's solid, documented, but little-known information. Often as not, though, it's a rumor. Or a hint of a rumor. Or something the sender's brother's cousin witnessed.

I can sometimes see important happenings behind these innuendos and and "he saids." People who send them are looking for help, sometimes. Or they just want to get the word out because it matters. But they're also looking to help me write an interesting blog. And they are helping. But not quite in that way.

I don't have the resources to do investigative reporting. But I can become another link in the information chain.

Just this week a trusted acquaintance clued me in to yet another story of Bush administration hirelings showing their third-world-style cruelty and corruption. This story hasn't yet even been breathed in the American press. But his information was very credible, coming directly from someone involved in the investigation. And it has the potential to be big.

Most likely, if the lapdogs get ahold of it, Bush admin spin will quicky render these barbarities as the work of the usual "few bad apples." But in the right hands, the uncovered story could reveal yet another aspect of the systemic corruption of Bush government (and big government in general) and bring us closer to rejecting the institutionalized savageries of the state.

Wolfesblog will never break the story. It requires the full-time effort of an investigative reporter, multi-lingual skills, and contacts in old-line federal agencies. Waaay beyond my league or the league of my fellow blogistas.

But I am able to pass the lead on to a muckraking journalist. Who in turn knows colleagues who speak the needed languages or are based in the affected countries.

So if this latest tale of corruption gets out, I'll have been allowed to play some tiny part. Then I'll get to link to the stories from the blog when that other writer, unknown to me, breaks the case.

Hardly a dramatic role. But it feels good to be part of something like that.

On the other hand, I know how many leads virtually all "political" writers get. And I know what happens to most of those leads. The people who get them are overwhelmed with work. Or they have no expertise in the area. Or they're going through an energy-sapping personal crisis. Or the lead doesn't have enough reliable information to hook them. Or (this one's killer), they're so burnt out and wary from following leads that turn out just to be someone's personal axe grinding that they don't trust the information and reject it. We've all had experience with the "victim of government abuse" who, in fact, soiled his own bed and just doesn't want to lie in the mess. (Oh, I could tell ya stories ...)

So every time a lead goes one more step toward investigation, there's a large chance it'll go no farther. Sometimes the facts don't deserve to see the light of day. But how many real stories of corruption and injustice simply peter out because there aren't enough investigators with enough time in the day?

How much, in other words, do politicians, their cronies, their lackeys, and their minions get away with, simply because corruption is so pervasive that people who care, or people who are being paid to investigate, don't have time to root out most examples of it?

Posted by Claire @ 07:50 AM CST

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