The Fourth Estate

The importance of investigative reporting and an update on CN&R Foundation’s fundraising campaign

When you're a journalist, one of the biggest rushes is breaking a story based on investigative reporting. Producing original work through in-depth research and the gathering of records is a lot of work, and it's a blast seeing it go to print and then watching other media outlets try feebly to quickly chase down the story without understanding its scope.

The most rewarding part, of course, is when the story makes a difference in the community or, in some cases, far beyond its confines.

Such was the case for a handful of reporters from The Boston Globe back in the early 2000s, as they painstakingly investigated pedophile priests and how the church covered up what turned out to be rampant sexual abuse of children within the Catholic churches not only in Boston, but throughout the world.

I recently watched the story behind the Globe's reporting in the film Spotlight, so named for the investigative team that took on the church. The film depicts the reporters slogging through public records, and it manages to pull in the audience despite a narrative that doesn't rely on a central protagonist. If anything is glorified in the film, it's the overall importance of the Fourth Estate.

Spotlight is a great movie and a reminder of print media's role in keeping the powerful accountable. As the old saying goes, “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Any publication that does otherwise isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Speaking of publishing, here at CN&R headquarters, we're excited about the prospect of generating numerous investigative pieces thanks to our generous readers supporting the Chico News & Review Foundation. We're in our final push in a fundraising campaign for the foundation, and tonight (Thursday, Dec. 17) the nonprofit is the beneficiary of a wine-tasting event at Bidwell Bar & Grill (from 5-7 p.m.). If we meet our goal of generating $25,000, an angel benefactor will buoy the fund by another $10,000. We still have a ways to go, so every donation counts.

The for-profit CN&R will not see any of the money from this campaign. Aside from a scholarship for a college student interested in investigative reporting, all of the proceeds will pay for reportage on important and complex issues affecting North State communities.

Because we're getting close to putting the community's money to use, we've set up a tip email address ( for people to send us story ideas on local issues in need of this type of reporting. They will be discussed by the CN&R Foundation's advisory committee in the coming year and then the best, most important among them will be chosen as topics and eventually printed in this newspaper and likely other publications interested in informing the public.

Speaking of important issues, check out page 11 to see a photo of last Saturday's High Noon for the Planet event, following the conclusion of the Paris climate talks. I was heartened to see the community come together and to hear folks making pledges to reduce their carbon footprints. Now, to keep the momentum going.