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Stephen Handelman of John Jay College on The Importance of Investigative Crime Reporting in Modern Times

Stephen Handelman John Jay College

Stephen Handelman is the co-founder and former Executive Editor of The Crime Report, a non-profit online news service covering criminal justice in the U.S. and abroad. The Crime Report is published by the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Stephen Handelman is exceptionally proud to have helped pioneer an organization that is the only comprehensive news service covering the unique challenges of criminal justice in the modern era. The organization comprises professional journalists around the country and publishes resources and commentaries from thought leaders of the criminal justice community. Those interested in emerging criminal justice issues can stay informed by reading the latest from The Crime Report website.

The work of investigative journalists is critical to a thriving democracy. Despite its necessity, newsrooms from coast to coast have felt the strain of reduced resources due to budgetary restrictions and personnel layoffs. The American media has also seen an influx of journalists blurring the line between talking head personalities and neutral sources. The Crime Report looks to provide an outlet for independent, non-partisan stories that are the result of hard work and research from investigative reporting professionals. There’s no focus on clickbait headlines or politically incendiary stories to rile up a particular side of the political aisle. The work being done at The Crime Report proves the need for neutral reporting in the criminal justice sector.

Stephen Handelman on Why America Needs Quality Criminal Justice Reporting

Social media has dawned an era of misinformation. Because everyone has an outlet to send out information via platforms like Twitter or Instagram, it can be easy to get confused by fake news or sensational claims. A lot of great information gets shared but gets lost in the sheer volume of noise encountered in social media. Verified sources of information are crucial to the informed public debate on criminal justice. What makes investigative reporting particularly essential is that, when done correctly, it publicizes information vital to the public interest. Quality investigative reporting helps people eliminate the noise and focus on the truth.

Stephen Handelman notes that journalism is often referred to as the fourth estate. In other words, the three branches of government, which feature people in prominent power roles, are meant to be kept honest by reporting. The journalism sector serves as the checks and balances of a democratic government. In an era when political pundits are happy to disparage the intentions of journalists, people must have neutral sources for facts that allow them to judge the performance of their elected officials correctly.

When government officials or agencies fail to fulfill their duties, it is up to journalism to contribute to holding these individuals accountable and bringing their actions to light. When the press reveals wrongdoing in the government, it helps motivate societal change. In some instances, progress is slow, but an informed public is the backbone of a successful democratic process. By informing the public of the activities of elected officials, citizens can make informed decisions each election cycle.

Of course, investigative journalists don’t just look to reveal criminal activity in the political realm; they work to reveal injustices wherever they are found, and just as importantly, to examine what many people call the “broken” criminal justice system. Many criminal justice stories that make headlines today, whether of a police shooting or a wrongful conviction, often arise from deeper flaws in the system that are often overlooked. Ignoring those flaws or failing to examine them makes citizens less safe.