Investigative Journalism Winner Gets Back To The Basics

By Blaine Grisak
Online Reporting Project

Pottstown Mercury reporter Evan Brandt has strong views on why investigative reporting still matters — and how to get readers to care.

Brandt said, “I found that people will ‘like’, ‘click’, ‘heart’, ’emoji’, anything that’s interesting, and so investigative journalism can be just as interesting as new pictures of the royal baby. The difference is, investigative journalism takes time and costs money and pictures of the royal baby come for free.”

Brandt swept the Division III investigative reporting category in the Keystone Awards, winning both first and second place.

“I was surprised. I’m sure that’s the unique angle is that I won first and second, but I’ve won a lot over the years so I mostly like to see the work get recognized,” he says.

This weekend is all about honoring the state’s best journalists and the pieces that they have worked diligently on in the last year.

Brandt’s winning stories dealt with issues regarding lower Pottsgrove officials and the Pottsgrove schools. The winning story led to the resignation of one public township official as it detailed money that the particular official owed. The second place story told of teachers being interrupted during class by board members to sign nominating petitions as well as e-mails to district employees regarding their willingness to sign election petitions.

In a business that has switched from wanting the most subscribers to now wanting the most “clicks” or “likes,” investigative reporting gets back to what reporting and journalism are all about, says Brandt, “It keeps people accountable. I think that has become less and less the case in the national press.”

Brandt also said that for him there’s not much of a difference between reporting and investigative reporting. It’s all about doing your job and keeping public officials accountable.

Times have changed.

Digital journalism is all about being quicker, even if that means publishing stories before all the information is available. With the ability to just go back and edit stories, something that can’t be done in print, the whole story is not always being told right away.

Brandt’s story gets back to what journalism and reporting is all about: the exploration for the truth, and giving the whole story to the readers.

Brandt spoke at the Keystone Press Awards Winners’ panel Saturday afternoon.

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