Besieged Newspapers Need Outside Help

Former Post editor cheers marriage of papers and outside investigative groups.

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Leonard Downie is no longer top editor of the Washington Post, but he's not overly worried about newspapers. "Print's not going to go away. The circulation of America's newspapers, while falling, is still huge," says Downie, now with Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

But it needs a savior and that, he says, can be found in the outside reporting groups now providing the costly in-depth coverage that fell victim to dropping ad dollars. "That marriage is really important to the future," Downie says.

But can reporting by groups like ProPublica be trusted like a newspaper's own? "Not every start-up is going to be trustworthy, but just like not every established news organization is either. You and I can both name some newspapers we don't trust as we travel around the country, but we know which ones we do trust," he says, without naming names.

He spoke to Whispers during the recent grand opening of ASU's new journalism outlet in Washington. It is the latest and most high-tech of the hands-on journalism schools covering Washington for news outlets back home, especially critical in Arizona because no for-profit media organization in the state has a Washington office anymore.

Like the few other journalism schools operating newsrooms in Washington, students report on Arizona issues in Washington, especially on Capitol Hill, and file stories to newspapers back home.

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