How to Conduct Investigative Journalism?

Investigative Journalism

Investigative journalism is a method of reporting in which reporters intensely examine a single topic of interest. Such social offenses as political dishonesty, bureaucratic corruption, corporate offense, or any other serious crimes, especially those committed by the rich and famous, are being investigated. An investigative journalist may need to spend months or years in research to prepare a final report. Sometimes this segment of reporting is termed 'watchdog reporting' or 'accountability reporting' also. As the process is time-consuming, it is expensive too. With the fall of income from advertisements, the number of such journalism conducted by the media is also dwindling. On the other hand, as it focuses on the influential people of the society, it is dangerous for the reporters also. Therefore, there are certain norms to carry on such journalism.

Sting Operations

The riskiest and most challenging part of investigative journalism is a sting operation. In this process, the reporter or anyone chosen by him poses as someone different, probably from a different profession, to carry on an undercover operation on the target and reveal his secrets. This sort of operation is also not supported by the law in some countries. Sometimes sting operations are conducted solely on the purpose of exposing a person's privacy, which does not have any direct connection with any violation of the law of the land. Such operation is only vindictive of nature and does not form a part of investigative journalism.

Conducting Interviews

The interview forms the most essential part of journalism. Interviews of celebrities and well-known politicians are often conducted to convey their views and also bring to light the common public little-known facts regarding these people. This is an innocent and positive side of conducting interviews. But when this process is done to expose some heavyweight of the society and his misdeeds, it forms a major part of investigative journalism. As often the purpose of the interview is not shared with the person involved, one must take special care not to reveal the purpose to the subject. Here are some tips on going around with such assignments.

Establish a track record to earn more time to cover investigations.

As people new in the profession often face mistrust from their seniors regarding their capabilities and intention, they need to establish their track record to gain more time to conduct the time-consuming process of investigative journalism. Some newcomers adopt a process of double duty. On weekdays the perform the duty of regular journalism, a simple person on the payroll of a newspaper, television channel or maybe some news agency. But, at weekends, they carry on the investigative part of the story they wish to cover. This dual role not only gives them more time to carry on the investigation but also creates an innocent image in the eyes of their subject. This also helps them to create the authenticity of their stories in the eyes of their editors. 

Do not expose your anxiety in the eyes of your subject.

Courage is the first and the last word in investigative journalism. Therefore, reporters conducting such investigation should have a nerve of steel. Do not fumble, sweat, or drink excessive water in the presence of your subject. Your peculiar behavior may make your subject suspicious of your intention, and such they may not unwind to your desire.

Narrow down on your topic.

When the story is big and complex, involving bigwigs at the national or maybe international level, one needs to focus or narrow down on the piecemeals of the topic. Let's take the case of an international war. If you are investigating the reason behind the war, you will come across varied, complex reasons put forward by the authorities, who are mostly politicians, of both nations. To find the real reason behind the war, one needs to narrow down upon the topic and question the authority on the subject. A lot of homework is needed for that. One needs to study the political situation and economic condition not only of the nations involved but also the global political and economic scenario at the time of the war. Focusing and concentrating are a must for such a situation.

Think of plenty of excuses to convince your subject.

Your subject may not open up, or even not let you in when you show up as a stranger at the door. He may become suspicious of your real intention of meeting him. In such a situation, only a trustworthy excuse can save you and get your job done. Your first target is to get an entry into the place where your subject is. That may be his office chamber or the living room of his home. So, a reliable excuse only helps you to get your entry. Be cordial and patient in your discussion, and do not pound on the real subject all at once. You may accept an invitation for a cup of tea, or may falsely need to use the toilet just to prolong your stay there. This gives your subject confidence in you and enables him to open up.

Convince your editor to buy your story.

Convincing your editor is the first, and the last thing in a successful investigative story a journalist may publish. As mentioned earlier, investigating into a social scam requires both time and money and affording that on an individual effort is next to impossible. So, one needs sponsorship or funding and patience from a media house for that. As the publication discretion of any media is the domain of the editor, one must take the editor in confidence, before starting to work on any story.

ThusInvestigative Journalism, we find that investigative journalism is a process that tests the patience of the reporter. It is a high-end process both in terms of time and money. But it is a necessity for society. This is the only means to expose criminal offenses committed by the rich and famous elite of society and bring them to justice. But one should take care not to step onto someone's privacy when he is not offending the law of the land.


1113 Words


Mar 20, 2020


3 Pages

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