New Media Is Best Journalism

Here in Georgetown we have been enormously lucky to receive the benefit of top journalism coming from The Austin Bulldog. Thanks to publisher and editor Ken Martin, we have gained access to a lot of back-room maneuvers that our elected representatives would prefer to keep secret from us.

Some people may still be thinking that the only media fit to carry the news are newsprint and its new-fangled rival, the television screen. We know better at Old Towners of course – we know the Web carries the best journalism, and the best journalists publish on the Web because their corporate bosses aren’t supportive of journalism anymore (if they ever were).

So it’s an exciting time actually, not at all a dispiriting one, to see the fragmentation of the old media as publishers scurry around looking for ways to sell what’s left of their ethics for what’s left of the old-media advertising revenues.

Enough of my opinions. Ken Martin has plenty of his own, especially about the new media, and the old-school journalism, good as it ever was.

Several weeks ago Ken wrote a letter to Ben Trollinger, editor of the Williamson County Sun. It was never published, perhaps because it’s a “think piece,” perhaps because it cuts too close to the bone for the Sun. Who can say, but here it is for you to read. It’s been updated by several more of Ken’s scoops since this – but you know all about that because you subscribe to his Alert List, right?
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From: Ken Martin
Date: July 12, 2010 12:26:06 PM CDT
To: Ben Trollinger
Cc: Clark Thurmond
Subject: Letter to the Editor

Dear Ben,

Thank you your July 11 report on Georgetown City Attorney Mark Sokolow, focusing mainly on the legal status of his employment agreement as Georgetown city attorney. Since Mark Sokolow never grants interviews for my reporting in The Austin Bulldog, it’s always interesting to see what he’s quoted as saying in the Sun. The questions you asked Sokolow about his view of public records, and his evasive answers, were particularly insightful.

In this letter, I want to focus on and respond to the fact that, according to your report, Sokolow doesn’t view The Austin Bulldog as “press.”

Well, he brings up a good point. How does one think about the new forms of journalism, published exclusively online, vis-a-vis the traditional press that smashes ink on dead trees?

Speaking only for myself, I think one should look to the qualifications of the journalist who produces the material in question. In my case, I have been a professional journalist since 1981. I have won a couple of first-place national awards for investigative reporting. The first of those was for a series of articles published in the Sun in October 1988 that resulted in the defeat, indictment on two felony counts, and conviction of a county commissioner. The second award was for articles about a con man who was ultimately indicted in both Williamson and Travis counties, jailed and fined for the offenses I exposed.

Mark Sokolow might also want to consider that the Sun article of May 12, about the illegal payment to Council Member Pat Berryman, which was facilitated by Sokolow, was based on The Austin Bulldog’s investigative report of April 28.

The Sun’s story of July 11 about the legal status of Sokolow’s contract was based on The Austin Bulldog’s investigative reports of April 28 and June 14.

Finally, he might want to read my latest investigative report of July 11, which reports how he violated the Georgetown City Charter by hiring an assistant city attorney without obtaining the approval of the city council, as required by Section 5.06 of the charter. Not to mention that the person he hired has no municipal legal experience, as required in the job posting for the position, and seems to have been hired on the basis of being a close neighbor of Council Member Pat Berryman.

If one wants to dodge the journalist, as Sokolow does, and attempt to demean the form of publication, as he has regarding The Austin Bulldog, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on investigative journalism in the public interest, consider these facts:

• The Austin Bulldog won a $25,000 New Voices startup grant funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation .

• Fewer than 4 percent of the 1245 applicants who applied in the five-year period, 2005-2009, were awarded a New Voices grant, and about half of the grantees were associated with major universities.

• The Austin Bulldog is a proud member of the national Investigative News Network, a collaborative network of nonprofit organizations doing public service journalism.

I look forward to continuing the coverage offered by The Austin Bulldog and the Sun to help inform the citizens of Georgetown and arouse public interest in their city government.

Ken Martin
Founder, Editor & Publisher
The Austin Bulldog

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Investigative journalism in the public interest
An initiative of the Austin Investigative Reporting Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
Organizer: Austin Investigative Reporting Team meetup group
 

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