The worldwide financial crisis has presented a major challenge to the traditional news media at a time when competition is rising from internet sites that are not limited by printing costs. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, a new website funded by a Dallas, Texas billionaire is providing detailed information on the U.S government's financial rescue package, which has come to be called the bailout.
Traditional newspapers in the United States are cutting costs and staff as readership dwindles. Some, like the well-respected Christian Science Monitor, have decided to abandon their printed form and go totally online. One advantage to the online format is that it can narrowly focus on certain issues and provide in-depth coverage that would be too expensive for most printed media.
One example of this is a relatively new web log, or blog, called Bailoutsleuth.com. This no-frills site, with few graphics or pictures, deals in documents that reveal how the government is using the more than $700 billion recently approved by Congress to restore financial markets. The blog is the brainchild of Dallas, Texas billionaire Mark Cuban, who is also its chief benefactor.
Day-to-day operations are run by Chris Carey, a former newspaper reporter, who described the purpose of the enterprise in a VOA phone interview.
"Mark basically dreamed up the site as a way to keep these government officials who are orchestrating all this honest, for lack of a better word. He believes that the only way to succeed is through transparency," Carey said.
But Cuban and his blog team have found that not all is transparent in the government's use of taxpayer money. They have posted online documents with portions blacked out by government officials.
Chris Carey says they want to know why parts of these transactions are being hidden from the U.S. public and they want to delve deeper into all aspects of the crisis.
"What we are going to be doing with the site is not cover the news as everyone else does," Carey said. "There are enough other news organizations covering the basic mechanics of the bailout. We are going to be looking for stories that are going untold and looking to expose situations that perhaps some people would prefer to keep in the dark."
Carey says Bailoutsleuth.com is a bare-bones operation now, but Mark Cuban hopes to expand it in the months ahead by hiring experienced reporters, some of whom have recently lost jobs in newspaper cutbacks.
"We actually have one person we are talking to who is a Pulitzer Prize winner so there is a lot of really good talent out there," Carey said. "The other thing is that as newspapers are drawing down their staff, they become less equipped to follow big stories like this. So there is a place for organizations like ours that are highly specialized."
For the time being, Carey says, Bailoutsleuth.com relies on links from other sites and occasional mentions in other media to increase its traffic. But as it grows in influence he expects it to gain prominence as the main place to go for information related to the financial crisis.