Sunday, May 20, 2012

I've lost track of what lecture we're up to now...

Investigative Journalism
What is investigative journalism?

"Isn't all journalism meant to involve questioning 
investigation of facts and opinions presented to us?"
- Ross Coulhart

Money, sex and power tend to be what is investigated.
In my opinion, this is because they are the elements of life which people, particularly people in positions of popularity amongst their communities tend to be dishonest about or attempt to keep secret; in accordance with this, money sex & power tend to interest the general public the most - they feel that they are entitled to know these details of certain people's lives & world events.

The "ins" of investigative journalism - intelligent, involved, informed, intuitive, inside/intimate, invest.

Deeper meanings and purpose:

  1. Critical and thorough Journalism - critical refers to the journalist being an active participant in events rather than simply an observer. Active intervention is the key idea. The journalist makes a substantial effort regarding time and sources.
  2. Custodians of conscience - "Investigation takes society's morals and normals and holds breaches up to public scrutiny; in other words, what they call 'civic vice' is exposed for society to respond."
  3. To provide a voice for those without one and to hold the powerful to account - social justice - power to the powerless - public interest being a key interest.
  4. Fourth Estate/Fourth Branch of Government/Watchdog - Journalists represent the interests of those without power to balance the power of the government. Journalists ensure free flows of information necessary for the functioning of democracy by interrogating the judiciary, executive and legislature. Journalists make accountable public personalities and institutions whose functions impact social and political life.
"It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without 
understanding the hidden agendas of the message and myths that surround it."
 - John Pilger, Australian Investigative Journalist

What do we investigate?
A lot of investigative journalism is fact checking; this can involve simply researching, but more often than not it is about getting out there and finding the factual information, sources, etc for oneself.

Threats to investigative journalism:
  • Online news - less money = less journalists + less time = LESS INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
  • Less journalists - not as many people in the newsrooms
Journalism vs. PR:
PR = propaganda by truth; the selective use of 'facts' to present a persuasive case to the public
Journalism = verifying these facts
Growth in PR = shrinkage in Journalism

The future of investigative journalism:
YouTube claims to have a channel dedicated to investigative journalism; however the content relates more to what investigative journalism is - stories aren't being broken, there's no actual CONTENT, merely educative resources. There are a lot of legal issues regarding investigative journalism - amateurs don't understand these issues and the professionals won't put their work on YouTube because they want to be paid.

Thus, we need to keep TV and print alive!

Regarding my own personal interest in investigative journalism, I feel that it ties in closely with photojournalism and documentary making, both of which are areas I feel strongly about working in throughout my career.
I feel that good investigative journalism should, wherever possible, include original photographs to accompany the story - not only because the general public are more likely to believe that the information they are digesting is factual if there are pictures next to it to 'prove' it (or video footage, of course) but also simply because it is more visually interesting and makes any article or news story more whole.

When I was fifteen my parents and I spent a few nights in Las Vegas. Though it was actually illegal (weirdos!) I had my own hotel suite, and when I couldn't sleep at night I'd watch the cable. Namely, investigative documentaries detailing American journalists' experiences in the Iraq war. I watched these men and women run across firing lines; crawl down into underground caves to see how certain people lived and communicated with one another; etc, They spoke to children whose parents had been lost to the war; they spoke at length about risking their lives for their stories and I remember that being one of the first times that I really knew journalism was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. 

Investigative journalists change the world. Whether by changing the age of consent, exposing information which led to the end of a Presidency, or anything else, the information they have brought to light has altered the course of history - investigative journalism is where the line between documenting history and shaping it is blurred.

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