If you are a reporter or editor you will want to keep an eye on this site. There will be angles to nearly every story we do that you can pick up. The idea behind the site is to improve the coverage at all levels by putting not just the gist of a story on line – but also the guts of the story that the viewer or reader seldom sees. Items like background documents and major portions of interviews will also be available. Feel free to take what you find here and use it. Just mention www.storiesthatmatter.org so my colleagues and I can find the support to continue and expand our work.
You will see much of the editorial material we use to make the judgments that cause us to pursue and present a story in the way that we do it. The point is to help you understand our thinking by providing greater transparency to the process we use to get to a story.
The reason we are doing this is that the audience for news has changed. Our goal at PEC is to improve public policy by better informing the public and arming the citizens with information to make decisions. The idea is that with that information the public can make better decisions about its government and our society.
The Internet has fundamentally changed the way individuals get their news. For younger computer-savvy consumers of information the idea of reading a print form of a paper or magazine is viewed as my generation views vinyl records and typewriters. News television and newspaper consumption is down and that is disastrous for a democratic society. We view the goal of making serious and important stories available and interesting to as many people as possible the most important activity we can take part in as journalists. Our emphasis on the net comes out of a belated recognition that traditional news outlets are not drawing in the next generation.
Why PEC on the net?
The reason to surf to www.storiesthatmatter.org is the journalistic reliability and honesty that has been emblematic of PEC over its history. We take some pride in being disliked by Republican as well as Democratic administrations. We believe it is the job of journalists to represent the public – not our own personal views. But what we don’t believe in is bland reporting where both sides of an issue are given equal weight when the arguments are not equal. Sometimes this approach can result in skewed reporting. It is our job to sort out the facts and get that information to the public. “He-said, she-said” news is not news. It is what I call “Newsak” bland elevator news that keeps advertisers comfortable but does not serve the public.
Our goal is to do important stories and to get them right. Because we are human we may make a mistake. When we do we will own up to it and try to do better. But we are going to try something new here. We are going to open up the editorial process. Our goal is to put our story meetings online so the public can monitor the thinking that goes into the work. For obvious reasons not every second can be posted, but most of the important stuff can and will be. I suspect opening things up a bit will make reporters, funders and lawyers a little nervous. But if we are arguing that the public has a right to know it is a little hard to argue to keep your editorial process a mystery to your readers – and even your critics.
www.storiesthatmatter.org will follow stories to their conclusions. We may revisit stories over a period of months or even years. One of the great lessons of the Public Education Center’s longevity has been its use to reporters and producers for it’s institutional memory. This is an organization that understands that the government’s secret history from four or five decades ago can—and does—have an impact on all our lives today. Sometimes we will share parts of that secret history that relate to what is going on around us today. You need to have that information to operate. We intend to make certain you get it.
The Public Education Center will be expanding its coverage. In addition to National Security and Natural Resources, PEC will now pay special attention to the excesses of government agencies and corporate institutions under the guise of Homeland Security. We will also be looking at looking and financial interests in the government process. This kind of work calls for special talents and we intend in bring the best people into www.storiesthatmatter.org to take on this additional work.
Our goal for this site is to make the work rock solid and show the world that good journalism can make a difference. We want you to respond to our work – and tell us what you think of what we are doing.