Investigative Journalism Definition
Journalists who dig deep to discover the truth are called investigative journalists. They so not take prima facie facts as gospel truth. They suspect that there is often more than what meets the eye. They therefore, investigate to find out the truth. Investigative reporting is, in reality, a detective job. Investigative reporting calls for dedication, courage and tact because an investigative reporter has to pierce through both official and unofficial barriers of secrecy. There is a gumshoe work in the field of crime. Some knowledge of criminal psychology can be of great advantage in this branch of journalism.
How to Investigate a Story
Investigative reporting has over the years became a specialized branch of journalism. Journalism who can identify sources, tackle them to extract information and collect evidence in support of their story can handle this type of work best. Normally, a shrewd investigative journalism should, as a matter of abundant caution, collect more than one proof. Of course, the proof or evidence collected should be the one. Which can stand the test of court’s scrutiny. Unless a journalist is able to back up his story by evidence, it may not inspire confidence among the readers.
It generally happens that the authorities concerned deny the story put out by a journalist on the basis of his investigation. The journalist should be ready to prove to the hilt that his story is based wholly on evidence. It is only when the authorities are confronted with irrefutable evidence that they will forced to accept the story.
Qualities of Prospective Investigative Reporter
Investigative reporting id meant for journalists who, if need be, can go even to jails. They must have a spirit of adventure and should be prepared to face dangerous situation in the course of their work. For example, Mr. Ashwini Sarin of the express news service went to the extent of getting himself arrested on a minor charge of disorderly behavior just to report about the murky affairs of Tihar Central Jail.
He was produced before a magistrate who remanded him to jail custody for 5 days. He was lodged in Tihar Central jail, Delhi. This enabled him to have a firsthand knowledge of the conditions prevailing in this jail. He wrote his report on the conditions in Tihar Jail four parts. The report gave a vivid account of what it was like to live in jail with professional criminals. The report was an eye opener for government and the public.
Investigative Reporting Tips
In short a journalist who wants to become an investigative reporter should bear in mind the following crucial points
- Leads from some of the sources may not look very promising buy might lead you to truth. Therefore, do not ignore a lead from any source howsoever unimportant it might look
- While investigating do not violate any law. As an investigative journalist, you have no authority to break into offices or violate the privacy of homes or seize documents or confine of kidnap a person. After all, an investigative reporter is not a police officer.
- Investigative reporting is time consuming, expensive and risky. You should not undertake any such assignment without the consent and clearance of your editor.
- Do not jump into the fray. Plan in advance as to how you wish to go about your job.
- What you need for your story is evidence which can stand scrutiny in a court. Therefore, you should always be on the lookout for evidence.
- If you have a hunch that there is something wrong in the bottom, do not give up in the middle of the stream. Keep pursuing till you succeed.
Watergate Scandal Example of Investigative Journalism
Investigative journalism received a huge boost by what has come to be known as the Watergate Scandal. This is biggest scandal of the 20th century. The credit for unearthing this scandal goes to two young investigative reporters of the “Washington Post”, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
In one of their earliest reports, these investigative reporters alleged that FBI agents have established the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of president Nixon’s reelection and directed by officials of the white house and the committee for the reelection of the president. They revealed that the federal investigators had found all the evidences about Nixon forces was unprecedented in scope and intensity.
Their report indicated that it included following members of democratic candidates, families and assembling dossiers in their personal lives, forging letters and distributing them campaign schedules into disarray seizing confidential campaign files and investigating the lives of dozens of democratic campaign workers.
These disclosures generated a nationwide debate in America. Though President Nixon denied the Watergate story repeatedly till white house tapes disclosed that he had, in fact, directed the Watergate cover up. A majority of the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against Mr. Nixon. Meanwhile American public opinion had also been building up fast against the conduct of Mr. Nixon ultimately Mr. Nixon had to bow to the American Public opinion and resign from the Presidentship in August 1974.
The Watergate scandal has demonstrated that if the investigative reporters base their story on unimpeachable evidence, they can stand up against all kinds of pressure and win the battle in the long run.