REASON readers are often the indirect source of our investigative stories. From time to time some of your number send in news clippings or descriptions of what's going on somewhere to alert us to potential stories, whether about the ill consequences of government involvement in people's lives or about some example of private initiative.
That's how this month's cover story came about. A reader in Texas who'd been observing the political shenanigans involved in the escalating use of "industrial development bonds" contacted us, giving chapter and verse on the abuses and blatant distortions of economic decisions about what will get built and where. We did some preliminary nosing around and approached writer Michael Berryhill, who had recently had a fine piece in Harper's on the forces pro and con Houston's proposed mass-transit boondoggle. The result, after several months of investigating, checking, and rechecking, is the article "How the Rich Get Richer in Texas," beginning on page 23.
To place the issue involved in perspective: it's not the fact that some people pay less taxes than others that makes this a story worth uncovering—not from our individualist perspective. And it's not the fact that some people are getting richer. It's the way the whole scheme promotes the idea that governments generate jobs and prosperity and such good things in life. And it's the fact that politics and business become just a bit more entwined, the politically well-connected have just one more leg up on the competition, and the market is prevented in just one more way from registering the decisions of individual consumers and investors and entrepreneurs.
REASON is hoping to add a person to the editorial staff in early 1985. The job will include editing, research, and some writing—plus the normal "grunt work" involved in putting out a monthly publication. Applicants may send resume, samples of work, and salary requirements to REASON, Dept. ED, 1018 Garden St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.
Where do network public-affairs shows like 60 Minutes and 20-20 get their story ideas? Mike Wallace and Geraldo Rivera don't really think up all those intrepid investigations. Readers who've been following REASON for a number of years know that in at least several cases, stories on those programs have been based on REASON articles that originated with our Investigative Journalism program. It is in fact fairly common practice for the network shows to rely on outside investigative reporting groups for story ideas.
A fairly comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at these groups and their relationships with the networks is provided by a new book, The Alternative Influence, written by Philip F. Lawler and published by the Media Institute. It covers the work of the Better Government Association, Fund for Investigative Journalism, Pacific News Service, Fund for Objective News Reporting, Sabre Foundation, and in particular, it contrasts the approach to investigative journalism of REASON and Mother Jones magazines. If you've noticed the names of these groups attached to magazine articles and wondered who and what they were, and how they may interrelate, this book will give you some answers. Copies are $6.50 from the Media Institute, 3017 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.
REASON's roving reporter Jack Wheeler has just returned from a second round-the-world investigative journey, which included visits with anti-Soviet guerrilla forces in Southeast Asia, Africa, and a return visit to Afghanistan (where Jack came under fire this time around) and Nicaragua. Much is happening in these areas, as Jack will detail in future REASON articles and reports. An update on the situation in Nicaragua is scheduled to appear in next month's Global Trends, and a cover story on anti-Soviet guerrilla forces in Southeast Asia will be featured soon—when Jack manages to find the time to write it up.
Beginning October 15 he was off on a 22-college lecture tour sponsored by the USA Foundation. Jack illustrates his lectures with an assortment of color slides from each of the countries he's visited. Having attended one of these lectures last June, I know that the effect is very moving. We at the Reason Foundation are proud to have made possible Jack's investigations of the new phenomenon of armed resistance to the Soviet empire.