Decline in Investigative Reporting Will Hurt Wrongly Convicted

A fancy extra-wide flat screen high resolution low glare monitor might help you process information quickly, but it just isn't as satisfying as getting smudgy newsprint on your fingers while paging through the Sunday New York Times. Electronic information is nonetheless winning over information consumers, to the detriment of newspapers. Declining circulation leads to less advertising revenue which leads to layoffs of reporters and editors.

Wrongly convicted prisoners and their lawyers have in the past relied on investigative reporters to uncover evidence to prove their innocence. They can no longer count on that valuable tool for unearthing the truth.

[Lawyers] say many fewer cases are being pursued by journalists, after a spate of exonerations several years ago based on the work of reporters.

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“It’s extremely troubling, some of the leading investigative journalists in this country have been given golden parachutes or laid off,” said Barry Scheck, the co-founder of the Innocence Project in New York, which is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “When procedural mechanisms begin to fail, the press is the last resort for the public to find out the truth.”

Wrongful conviction investigations often require extensive travel and months of research. These days, the money isn't there for stories that can't be written in a day. That's typically beeen true for "in the moment" broadcast journalism, but the regional and local newspapers that once kept a watchful eye on the judicial system no longer have the resources to do serious investigative reporting. The criminal justice system and the wrongly convicted (and government in general) will suffer as serious mistakes go undiscovered and uncorrected.

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