Forensic journalism is a model to consider

Here’s a big story from CNN today:

Getting served with foreclosure papers made Lynn Szymoniak rich.

While she couldn’t have known it at the time, that day in 2008 led to her uncovering widespread fraud on the part of some of the country’s biggest banks, and ultimately taking home $18 million as a result of her lawsuits against them.

via Whistleblowers win $46.5 million in foreclosure settlement – Jul. 2, 2012.

Most people may be drawn to the more salacious and/or sensational story that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is (*shock*) gay. But these kinds of cases have had me thinking about journalism for a while.

Most of these big class action suits start with an investigative report, or one or two or more come in as they are ongoing. Journalists often cross from journalism into law. There’s a lot of overlap in these actions, which often bring justice to the powerful and peace to the people.

Forensic Journalism is a process and a model I’d like to see explored. I think it may be a possible part of the future of journalism. Putting lawyers on staff who can not just protect a journalism operation from libel and slander and protect their copyrights, but actually take action on the information raised from an investigation could mean a lot for journalism.

First is the methodology is more rigorous. Collecting information that is admissible and holds up to scrutiny in court is more than most journalists do.

Second, it wipes out the bias argument, for justice is the goal and you start with a side in mind. Forensic journalism means advocating for what the organization feels is the right thing to do for people. That’s a big deal.

Third, it is solution oriented. Journalism right now is about problems, and it makes money selling ads as the problems are prolonged. TV news has responded to blogs by becoming more about opinion and debate than it is about reporting facts or covering issues. That’s tiring and wearing on the viewer. If we tell stories, we want our stories to have resolutions or we grow weary of them.

Fourth, there’s money here that isn’t from advertising or membership. It is claimed through legal channels as part of an award or settlement. And it can be serious money. Having a legal action arm is a possible business model.

Yes, there are ethics to be considered all over the place, but I do think there is potential here. What do you think?

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