We are Jackie Rafferty, director of the Paul Pratt Memorial Library in Cohasset, MA, president of the Massachusetts Library Association (MLA), MA chapter councilor to the American Library Association (ALA), and a member of ALA’s Presidential Taskforce on Equitable Access to Electronic Content; and Eugenia Williamson, a staff writer at the Boston Phoenix who frequently reports on the publishing industry.

We shared two lengthy phone conversations and a few emails about the impact of electronic media on libraries and the demise of investigative journalism.

Jackie told Eugenia that e-content has become increasingly inaccessible to libraries. Publishers use digital rights management (DRM) to limit libraries’ use of electronic materials and refuse to support library resource sharing.

Further, reduced library funding threatens their – and, by extension, the public’s – access to information. Digital publications proliferate, and print publications are rapidly becoming digitized. Jackie says: “The rapid proliferation of electronic content (e-content), combined with library inaccessibility to e-content, is undermining the historic library missions of providing equitable access to information for all people and of preserving the recorded history of humankind for future generations.” (visit http://www.equacc.ala.org to learn more)

Technology has also given rise to new communications paradigms such as self-publishing and citizen journalism. Jackie wonders what librarians and journalists can do to support responsible citizen journalism that incorporates both research and fact checking. She sees an opportunity for transparency in citizen eye-witness reporting, but worries that citizen journalists have inadequate means of proving the veracity of their reporting. She also worries that sound bytes, devoid of facts, perpetuate false information.

Says Eugenia, “Though I’m an arts reporter, I see my colleagues working hard and delivering important investigative journalism all the darn time. In my hometown of Chicago, the alt-weekly there (the Chicago Reader) laid off a number of its investigative journalists. There’s a tremendous article about this in the Columbia Journalism Review here: http://www.cjr.org/feature/justice_for_john_conroy_1.php”

Jackie and Eugenia agree that the demise of (professional) investigative reporting and journalism can have extremely negative effects on society. Jackie wonders what libraries can do to stop this decline without losing their role as neutral purveyors of information.

Neither of us can wait to attend the conference!