Over the last few years Private Brand has been everywhere from morning news shows to CNN so it is no surprise to see daily mainstream news stories taking one stand or another concerning Private Brand. Combine that with the fact that I receive weekly emails from curious readers wondering about who manufacturers specific products or more often their country of origin. So here is the interesting twist, combine those questions with a healthy dose of paranoia and the increasing call for transparency and traceability across all manufacturing and you get an idea for investigative journalism. I majored in journalism in college and spent several years at a Gannett owned daily so I certainly understand the desire to follow the story, but this investigation is slightly different. It is being conducted by the website “The Faster Times”.
For those of you unfamiliar with the site, according to their About page:
The Faster Times, a new type of newspaper for a new type of world.
The Faster Times is a collective of great journalists who have come together to try something new. As we launch this July, we will have more than a hundred correspondents in over 20 countries. We have someone on the ground in Kenya and someone else reporting from Lebanon. Our arts section will cover not just film and books, but also theater and dance and photography. We will launch with seven writers on books alone. These writers are not “citizen journalists” but among the most accomplished and recognized names in their respective fields.
We’re not kidding ourselves. The Faster Times is not going to solve any major crises by itself. We are an organization owned and created by journalists. We have not sought any funding and, for the time being, we have very limited financial resources.
But while our limited resources will limit the number of reported pieces on the site in our first months of operation, we have no intention of shying away from the challenge. Our goal is to do what great papers have always done: look at the world with skeptical eyes and uncover information that the public needs to know. We will not, in most cases, be publishing 1200-word reported pieces, but we will be making calls and asking hard questions. And when our reporters discover something of interest, they will publish it and invite our readers to help push the story forward with their tips and insights.
This past week Faster Times launched it’s first ever Faster Times Reader Investigation, that was designed to help the online newspaper discover the truth behind “Generic Food”. According to the initial article:
We want you to help us hold the private-label food chain more accountable. Do you have a lead on an interesting private-label food story? Do you know someone who might be willing to talk, on or off the record? Are you willing to ask the store manager at your local grocer’s or big box store where they get their store-branded goods?
We’re hoping that if some of you can join us in tracking down more information about these goods, perhaps we can influence the retail food industry to be a bit more forthcoming. We don’t want to ruin the economics of private label, necessarily, but we think consumers have a right to know where their food comes from.
This is an intriguing reader based social experiment in investigative journalism and I look forward to reading the results. I also relish the idea of more transparency and accountability for all manufacturers, national or Private Brand.