investigative journalism

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  • 1. Investigative Journalism

2. What is it?

  • In The Reporter's Handbook: An Investigator's Guide to Documents and Techniques , Steve Weinberg defined it as:
  • Reporting, through one's own initiative and work product, matters of importance to readers, viewers or listeners. In many cases, the subjects of the reporting wish the matters under scrutiny to remain undisclosed.


  • Investigative journalism is a branch of journalism that usually concentrates on a very specific topic, and typically requires a lot of work to yield results.
  • The classic example is the uncovering of the Watergate scandal by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, resulting in reports being published in the Washington Post.

4. 5. Why is there a need for it?

  • James Carey explains our need to understand why:
  • "When matters of fundamental importance surface in the news, they cannot be treated as secular mysteries and left unexplained. They must be accounted for, must be rendered sensible. We insist that the economy and the polity be explicable: a domain where someone is in control, or natural laws are being obeyed, or that despite all the bad news of the moment, the signs in the headlines augur well for the future."

6. Legal protection

  • The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decision, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.
  • Article III, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution

7. Some investigative reporting techniques

  • Making full use of public documents : Sifting through mountains of paper: studying neglected sources, such as archives, tax records, audit reports
  • Following up anonymous tips, seeking whistleblowers: people are increasingly demanding transparency, and technology has created many avenues where information may be shared.

8. Some investigative reporting techniques

  • Remembering to follow up in case meetings are closed.
  • Going undercover
  • Turning complex subjects into compelling stories that touch readers lives: Find out what readers need more information on, what theyre worried about, or what theyre pleased about

9. Use technology wisely

  • Journalists at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) wrote:
  • Information and communication technology has made investigative journalism both simpler and more complex, easier but also harder. It has compelled us to adapt and innovate, to take advantage of what the technology has to offer without being blinded by its glitz.

10. Some classic examples:

  • In 1880 Henry Demarest Lloyd published a series of articles exposing corruption in business and politics. This includedThe Story of a Great Monopoly(1881),Making Bread Dear(1883) andLords of Industry(1884).Lloyd has been described as the first American investigative journalist.

11. Some classic examples:

  • Nellie Bly, an 18-year-old reporter with the Pittsburgh Dispatch, was another important pioneer in American investigative journalism. For example, she worked in a Pittsburgh factory to investigate child labor, low wages and unsafe working conditions. She used undercover work to write about housing conditions and the state of patients in a New York asylum.

12. Social reform as overriding goal 13. Brainstorming

  • Focusing on government services or processes, complete one of the following phrases:
  • Ive always wondered
  • Im curious about
  • Id like to learn more about

14. Investigating Local Governments

  • Some tips from PCIJs Yvonne Chua
  • Local governments exercise broad powers
  • Political
  • Executive
  • Legislative
  • Regulatory
  • Law enforcement
  • Corporate

15. When writing about the budget

  • Compare with preceding years
  • Where is the government spending more? Less?
  • Compare proposed vs. approved budget
  • How does it measure up against standards?
  • Be sure to attend public hearings.
  • Compare the budget with projected income. Will there be new or higher taxes?
  • At the end of the year, compare the appropriated amount with what was actually spent.

16. Check government contracts.

  • How much does the contract involve? Look at both small- and big-ticket items.
  • Check if any rules were bent:
  • No public bidding
  • Cost overruns
  • Non-delivery (ghost projects)
  • Conflict of interest

17. Another area to watch: campaign promises

  • Keep a record of what they said theyd do, and find out what theyre doing or not doing now
  • Examine records of campaign donations and expenditures
  • Keep track of people theyve appointed to juicy positions
  • Find out if government property arent being tapped for personal use

18. Investigate communities

  • Look for successful projects that are underreported: How did they do it? What resources were available to them? Who are their leaders? Can other communities replicate what theyve done?
  • Consider using citizens report cards

19. When writing, remember:

  • Invest in proper preparation before you sit down to write the story. Write a short abstract with the major points you want to make. Construct a detailed outline. Identify your best quotes. Experiment with leads.
  • A good investigative story combines powerful statements and telling examples. If you cant produce both a nut graph that summarizes your findings, and clear, telling illustrations you likely have to do more reporting.

20. When writing, remember:

  • Whatever your medium, you must consider and anticipate your readers full experience with your story. Use your mediums other tools photographs, graphics, audio to enhance that experience and to lift some of the burden from your words.
  • Simplicity and clarity are eternal virtues. Minimize your use of numbers, jargon and bureaucratese. The storys weight should lie in the facts, not in your word choices.

21. Writing the Story

  • Focus : Whats the central theme?
  • Lead and nut graph : Whats the point of the story?
  • History : How did the problem develop?
  • Scope : How widespread is the development?

22. Writing the Story

  • Causes : Why is this problem happening now?
  • Effects : Whos affected and how?
  • Moves and countermoves : Whos acting to promote or oppose the developments, and what are they doing?
  • Future : What could happen?

23. Joseph Pulitzers challenge:

  • Our republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know whats right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. The power to mold the future of the republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.
  • Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true.

24. Online resources you can visit

  • www. pcij .org
  • Reporters and Editors Inc.)
  • www. washingtonpost .com(Revisiting Watergate)
  • www. newsu .org(News University)