Hello and welcome to this course on Investigative Journalism!
Before a journalist can write a copy, he or she has to gather the required information that the text will be about. This is called investigation or research.
However, investigation is not only a method, it’s also a philosophy. Why? Because a solid investigation is what distinguishes quality journalism from bad journalism. Today, many criticize that journalism has become “churnalism” – written with “ch” – which is a bad expression for the fact that many journalists don’t invest time in information gathering. There’s also the expression of “bandwagon journalism” which means that one journalist just copies and rewrites a text by a colleague – again: without an own research on the topic. All this is very bad. It’s bad because the very task of journalism is to properly inform the recipient – that is the reader or the radio or TV audience – about facts. It is obvious that the journalist has to know everything about these facts before he or she writes about them. And the journalist has to make sure these are really facts – that means they are true.
Now, when it comes to investigation as a method you might first think about using a search engine and just type in what you’re looking for. But as an investigative journalist you definitely have to dig deeper. Everybody can look something up in the internet. Your task as a professional journalist is to find the things that aren’t obvious.
Our course has four main sections. In the first section, we will talk about strategies to find good stories. This is a hard task. Without a good story, there is no investigation, and no writing.
Second, you’re going to learn how to phrase minimum and maximum hypotheses. These will guide your further investigation efforts. Your hypotheses can be true or false. The purpose of the investigation is to find out which one is the case.
Third, we will cover the research process. How can you find sources? What kinds of sources are there? How can you build a timeline? How do you look for documents or for people?
Finally, we will talk about how to tell a story, that is: how to outline the masterfile and which narrative principles to follow. You will get some writing tips and you will learn how fact-checking and bulletproofing is done.
You see: Investigation is an essential part of a professional journalist’s toolkit – maybe even the most important one. In this course, we will teach you everything you need to know for your solid investigation.
See you in the course!
This course is based on a script written by Margo Smit. Margo is an independent investigative journalist, journalism teacher, and (part-time) director of the Dutch-Flemish Association of Investigative Journalists (VVOJ). She is a lecturer for TV reporting and investigative reporting at University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She produces documentaries in Dutch and English, both for Dutch public television and for international companies. Smit teaches investigative and TV journalism at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, and is a guest lecturer at many international journalism schools. Smit sat on the Global Shining Light Award jury (2010), the jury of the Daniel Pearl Award (2010, 2011, 2013), and the M.J. Brusseprijs (2013). She received her Master's degree in Communication (specialization journalism) from Stanford University, Palo Alto, USA.
After working through this chapter, you will be able to:
“The key is to take sources as seriously as they take themselves and show a genuine interest in them, what they’ve written, what they’ve said, and jobs they’ve had before. There are three other keys: listening, listening, listening.”
— Bob Woodward, at a visit to the Poynter Institute on March 15, 2011.
At the end of this lecture, you will know:
“Writing is thinking. It is an extension of the reporting process.”
— Walt Harrington, long-time writer and journalism professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Kramer & Call 2007: 97)
After working through this lecture, you will be able to:
Anderson School of Journalism teaches you all what you need to become a professional Journalist.
Our course authors come from many notable universities such as Birmingham City University, City University of New York, Columbia Journalism School, Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Warsaw, and many more.
We will add new courses one after another. Topics will include Investigation, Interviews, Writing for Print, Writing for Radio, Writing for Television, Writing for Online Media, Ethics in Journalism, Arts Reporting, Business and Economy Reporting, Environmental Reporting, Fashion Reporting, Foreign Affairs and World News Reporting, Local and Community Reporting, Media Journalism, Medical and Health Reporting, Music Reporting, Political Reporting, Science Reporting, Sports Reporting, and Travel Journalism.