If investigative journalists can report on themselves, why can’t they investigate themselves?

One of our local public radio stations (see this previous post on the finances), WBUR, ran an article (“2 Firms To Investigate Allegations Against Tom Ashbrook”) about  unhappy times among staff members of the On Point show. I.e., the news organization is reporting on itself. This makes sense because WBUR is packed full of journalism professionals who are great as investigations, right?

But then it seems that they are going to spend listener donations on hiring a $1,200/hour law firm, Holland & Knight, to figure out who had sex (or wanted to have sex? or talked about sex?) with whom. They’re hiring a separate contractor to look at “allegations of name-calling” (why not give the cash to local 3rd graders? That’s where I would go to find expertise in this area!).

I could understand WBUR not wanting to write about its own internal dispute and also leaving any investigation to outsiders. But if they are going to investigate this sufficiently to write the article, why can’t they finish the investigation internally? Why not simply have the reporter who wrote the above-cited article continue interviewing people and deliver a full account to management?


4 thoughts on “If investigative journalists can report on themselves, why can’t they investigate themselves?

  1. That radio station is probably ultimately controlled by a board of directors and they have different interests from the reporters. Holland and Knight probably got involved because one of the directors has some connection with that law firm. They would or should be doing this work at some sort of discount to their rack rate. Seems like overkill to have a law firm like H&K investigate this sort of thing but there could be substantial legal (financial) consequences if these sorts of claims are not properly investigated. I am not an expert on this area of law but that is my guess.

  2. The bill that Holland and Knight will issue:

    Figuring out who had sex:……………..$10
    Figuring out who talked about sex:……..$10
    Figuring out who called names:…………$5
    Covering board’s asses from litigation:…$29,975

  3. Hiring a law firm to investigate violations of university policy is a little strange. Lawyers are advocates, and trained to take a one-sided view of any issue. They are not experts in university policy.

    It might make sense to hire a law firm if the university has already decided to fire the guy, and the law firm is supposed to write something like an indictment to justify the firing.

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