Why We’re Here
Hundreds, if not thousands of reporters cover Congress, the presidency, and the ups and downs of national politics. However, there are 87,576 units of state and local government in the United States, all with powers to regulate, tax, and spend – and they spend a combined $3 trillion annually. Yet frequently, state and local governments are allowed to exercise these powers without more than vague, cursory oversight from the media.
Citizens need to look no further than the rise of online advertising to understand why journalism and the nation have suffered this casualty. Once, classified ads brought in 40% of an average newspaper’s profits, but free online advertising has destroyed that revenue stream. Newspaper classifieds will produce less than a third of the revenues this than they produced in 2000. Newspaper profits will be 43 percent less now than in 2005.
To fill this void, newspapers have gone on an unprecedented cost-cutting binge, laying-off one third of their reporters since 2005 and reducing state and local reporting output by 80 percent since 2000. Legacy media outlets have begun to share production costs with competitors, consolidate departments, and slash travel budgets. Cash-strapped and under-staffed, local and regional newspapers often can’t provide the real information that voters need to make good decisions.
What We Do
Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade and publisher of one the United States’ most prominent early newspapers, once said, “a newspaper in every house… [is] the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.” Today, Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity carries on that legacy, animated by the belief that voters need real information to make informed decisions about their government – and that the American public simply does not have enough.
Franklin Center was established in 2009 to answer this need – and already provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide. We support an in-house team of state-based reporters and act as a capacity-building service provider for organizations that sponsor investigative journalism.
With transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility as our watchwords, Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels. Our competitive advantage lies in our ability to train reporters, to produce investigative news content, and to hold government officials accountable.
Where We’re Going
We continue to ramp up our existing operations to improve the quality and reach of our reporters’ work and in anticipation of the 2014 elections. Our plan includes adding staff in key states, expanding our online presence, and improving our multimedia output.
In 2012, we launched our information activist training program, Citizen Watchdog. Recognizing that many of the greatest threats to our freedom and prosperity occur at the local level, where there are often no reporters or citizen observers to hold elected officials accountable, Citizen Watchdog will help raise an army of citizen journalists, trained and equipped to serve as watchdogs in their local communities. For more information or to get involved, please visit WatchdogWire.com.