Pulitzer-winning reporter: "Bad government is good for the journalism business"

byIJNet
Mar 16, 2012 in Miscellaneous

Many journalists would have a hard time spending two hours online with readers who can ask them anything they want.

But fearless ProPublica senior reporter Jesse Eisinger hung out on social news site Reddit for a two-hour chat with readers who were encouraged to ask him anything.

Eisigner, who won a national Pulitzer prize with his colleague Jake Bernstein for a series on investment bankers in 2011, gamely answered questions about his favorite football team, the recession, college tuition and more.

Here are IJNet's takeaways on what he had to say about journalism.

On what makes a good investigation:

  • "The best investigative stories are forward-looking, uncovering some ongoing fraud or outrage, that affects real people. I have a motto that I have tried in my career to never write anything that affects a real person -- and I have largely succeeded. (A slight joke.)"

On whether reforms of the financial system are possible:

  • "I am pretty cynical about this and often despairing. We will need a serious social movement to make changes to our financial system, which will start with our broken political system. I don't feel optimistic. Except that for me, it's great. Bad banks and bad government is great for business (the journalism business, I mean)."

Tips on being an how to be investigative reporter in a secretive industry like banking:

  • "It's hard. But if it were easy, I'd have more competition. Yes, one thing is to develop relationships. One thing I try to do is to explain to my sources and potential sources that I care deeply about fairness and accuracy. I try to honor their professions by listening and really trying to understand their business. I'm not talking to them for a quick quotation before I move onto the next story. I think people appreciate that, even if I have a different take on a subject than they do. Banks make things opaque on purpose, and the disclosures are often of little help. So you have to work hard to find people who will explain to you what is really going on."

You can read the full transcript here.

Photo courtesy ProPublica, credit: Lars Klove.