My heart weighs as I prepare to enter the building. Backpack with a hidden camera that occupies the passenger seat, its own entity. This is the hardest part, getting into the character, hoping I won’t get caught. I Must Remember my cover story. They don’t know that I snuck into their group filming the whole thing. Not yet at least. As soon as I step out of the car and enter my turn, the nagging fear subsides. But those moments just before that were nerve-wracking.
(How not to write a tutorial book)
This was my most memorable assignment as a television investigative journalist – going undercover for five weeks with an alleged cult. The job wasn’t always very exciting of course, most days it involved in-depth research. Which, in short, answers the question: What is investigative journalism?
But let’s delve deeper into this definition.
Journalism is divided into four broad types: news journalism, feature journalism, opinion/analysis, and investigative journalism. Investigative journalism goes beyond reporting “who, where, how, what, when and why,” which works with most news and features. It mainly comes down to the intensity and comprehensiveness of the research and the time allotted to conduct it, hence the word investigative. This separates it from other forms of deadline-driven news journalism. The types of stories are also different, incorporating more complex and “bigger” issues and components, which we will discuss shortly. It is a deeper look into a story and the revelation of something that was previously unknown or deliberately hidden. In addition, the journalist has the time and resources to find information and research all the evidence needed to substantiate the story, making it worth broadcasting or publishing.
If you search for the term investigative journalism on the Internet, you will find general descriptions such as: exposing corruption, fraud, and crime, often in politics and business. But it includes much more than that. A journalist can investigate anything if it is a good story, or if something undesirable is going on in any institution or group, or if citizens are being mistreated or oppressed.
A typical day as an investigative journalist involves phone calls, searching through documents, sifting through data, analyzing information, and thorough fact-checking. In addition, for me, it will be meeting with contacts, building a relationship of trust with the main source, filming interviews and recording tapes. I will work on one story as long as it takes to gather information and make a “case”. Often, they don’t excel after some initial research, usually due to a lack of evidence or sources unwilling to speak up formally.
David E. Kaplan, Executive Director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, describes investigative journalism on the organization’s website as “the in-depth and systematic use of original research and reports. It often uses large amounts of data and documents. It uses public records to find out what’s going on.” Kaplan explains that according to industry veterans coaches, the best investigative journalism “uses meticulous methodology, heavy reliance on primary sources, hypothesis formation and testing, and careful fact-checking.”
As for what investigative journalism achieves – it sheds light on something unacceptable that was previously hidden or secret. It exposes corruption, big or small, or a danger to the public or workforce that is covered up, and holds leaders accountable.
Some of the most famous recent investigative stories are the Watergate scandal which was first published in Washington Post In 1972, and more recently in 2017, New York times Expose Harvey Weinstein. These two investigations caused sweeping changes in our society, which is another element of investigative journalism – the motivation behind stories, to bring about change and improve the situation. As Kaplan stated, investigative journalism often includes “unearthing secrets” and “has a strong focus on social justice and accountability.”
Historically, activism has been an integral part of investigative journalism. Black journalist Ida B. Wells used investigative skills in her reporting long before it went public, revolutionizing the “power of the pen” and revealing the truth about lynchings in the late 19th century. New York times He stated in his obituary that Wells “was a pioneer in reporting techniques that remain a fundamental tenet of modern journalism”.
So, what does it take to become a good investigative journalist? It involves searching for information and using primary sources, be it records or people. Requires excellent communication skills – asking tough questions, investigating and listening to people’s stories. You need keen observation skills, instinct, and discrimination. Do you think the narrator is honest? It requires patience, following through on potential clients, careful analysis, fact-checking, following data trails, and speaking with attorneys. I repeat – it takes time. Some stories require weeks, months, or sometimes years to investigate.
Investigative journalism doesn’t always produce headlines that grab attention around the world; They are often local stories, but they are just as important.
I spent a year investigating the dangers of low-flying military aircraft in Wales. A principal suspected her school was being used as a training target, endangering the students’ lives. To test the hypothesis, we trained children to use a video camera and systematically record the frequency of jets darting 100 feet above the classroom, and the results were significant. Other research revealed impending accidents involving police helicopters and civilian pilots. We also met a man who described the crash of an F1-11 in the field behind their farm house. These additional cases expanded the scope and reinforced the story. The British Ministry of Defense (unsurprisingly) declined our invitation to present their “side” of the story.
While traditional media have suffered major budget cuts and lost funding for investigative journalism, technology has opened the doors to a new generation of documentaries and citizen journalists. With camera phones, Go-Fund me campaigns, and digital access to data, those with the skills and passion for finding the truth have options. Whether this business is reliable and/or reputable is open to debate. Although this type of “reporting” does not meet the same rigorous standards and accountability required of traditional investigative journalism, it is here to stay and grow.
There is now an abundance of excellent documentaries that many argue do indeed fall under the investigative journalism umbrella, although some are biased to one side. There are independent investigative journalism outlets scattered all over the Internet, some more credible than others.
Are we witnessing a new phase of investigative journalism? Will we have to redefine this branch of journalism soon?
maybe. But in the meantime, our definition is consistent, which is to keep the investigative journalists among us accountable, believable and trustworthy, and allow the freedom to excel in their profession, providing us with stories — big or small — that otherwise would never have seen the light of day. Stories that can change the world.
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