What we have lost in investigative reporting units at news organization in the last two decades will be at least partially replaced by mission-orientated groups that can find other value for doing such work.
Foundations, think tanks and mission-minded nonprofits may be the more ethically normalized groups, but in elections and government, the idea of campaign opposition research will almost surely come to wider prominence. The idea that a campaign would hire investigators, lawyers or others to dig up shortcomings on political rivals is not new at all, but we’ll hear more about this.
Awareness of it will change for a pair of reasons:
- Campaigns can grow their own audience through social media channels and direct-to-voter relationships so their research can gain a wider audience faster.
- News organizations will often lack the staffing and experience to do such public affairs work on their own, so the reliance on competitors will only growth. This is exactly why one-party municipalities and states — like Philadelphia — are at a disadvantage for pushing for efficiency and transparency.
Having more eyes is good, though bias reigns. The question will be how well the web can encourage transparency and if the mass media news organizations that survive can retain credibility to put their stamp of approval on the best opposition research.