Investigative reporters are a dying journalistic breed. This was a message I heard while driving around town, listening to POTUS on satellite radio (terrific thoughtful non-wacko programming for us political junkies).
Reportedly a television station in southern California went from over a dozen investigative reporters, to precisely zero in just a few years. This is part of a general decline in investigative journalism.
Including at newspapers, where employment and income are dropping also. So I can understand why our local major newspaper, the Salem Statesman Journal, has limited resources to dig into stories that need in-depth truth excavating.
I just wish the Statesman Journal would choose its gotcha! targets differently. My wife and I have been surprised by how much time and energy the newspaper put into its recent jihad about the Willamette Educational Service District.
There's got to be more important local issues to unleash an investigative journalist on.
I'll suggest some. Maybe commenters on this post can suggest others. As a regular reader of the Statesman Journal, my overarching suggestion is that the paper needs to be more even-handed in its treatment of public employees vs. politicians/private sector.
Observing how the news and editorial "slants" of the Statesman Journal have evolved over the past ten years or so, a reasonable conclusion is that the newspaper is reluctant to take on the Salem and Marion County power structure/elites, who not coincidentally happen to be major advertisers.
On the other hand, the paper was eager to release detailed personal information about PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) retirees, including names and final salaries, for reasons that were decidedly unpersuasive. Indeed, totally lacking in my opinion.
So if the Statesman Journal wants to show that it isn't marching to a conservative and corporate drumbeat, it should turn its investigative journalism attention to some issues that aren't getting the attention they deserve.
(1) The role of the three current Republican county commissioners in letting construction defects at Courthouse Square go unattended to for so long, until the building was declared unusable. Cracks, settling, and such were evident early on. Whenever this has been noted in stories about Courthouse Square, the questioning of commissioners on this subject isn't pursued by the reporter. Why not?
(2) How the Marion County commissioners and county Legal Counsel could get some important land use decisions so horribly wrong. Proof: reversal of the decisions by a Circuit Court judge. Citizens have the impression that the Legal Counsel is supposed to follow the law, not political whims of the commissioners. Is this true? Or does the Legal Counsel improperly kowtow to the commissioners?
(3) The abrupt dismantling of Salem Futures, an effort to improve the city's planning. I can't recall any stories about this in the Statesman Journal. Other cities in Oregon are much further along in stimulating innovative mixed use neighborhoods, while Salem lags. How much better off would Salem be if Salem Futures had been allowed to continue, rather than being squashed by a newly conservative mayor and city council?
(4) Downtown has much potential, yet never gets over the "could be..." hump. The well-deserved reputation of downtown Salem is that of a boring, semi-deserted, uninteresting place to visit. Talk of an entertainment district keeps arising, then subsiding. What role do hidebound, Chamber of Commerce-influenced, traditional values play in keeping downtown Salem, well, down?
(5) The site of the former Fairview Training Center was bought from the state by a group which promised to develop the 200 acre+ property into a model sustainable mixed-use development. Only a small portion has begun to be developed, even after many years, while Wilsonville's VIllebois (which also was state property bought at the same time for a private sustainable development) has prospered in comparison. What's going on with Fairview?
If anyone else has investigative reporting suggestions for the Statesman Journal, share them in a comment. More the merrier.