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investigative journalism

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by writing irish, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. writing irish

    writing irish Active Member

    It's part of my job these days...and I suck at it. Really, we're talking hunka-hunka burnin' fail.

    I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to improve here. I've never had any journalistic schooling (English major) and my editor...well, let's just say that he's helped as much as he can. Of course I'm aware that there are plenty of books on the subject. There's Investigative Reporters and Editors; there are other sources for the floundering, would-be investigative journalist. But I thought I'd call on the board's collective wisdom to see if they have any suggestions for self-instruction in this area. So bring on your tips, anecdotes of success/failure, recommendations and caveats.

    I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person around here who could stand to improve their investigative skills. It's an increasingly rare skill set, as has been discussed elsewhere.
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Have you tried bribing folks at the corner bar with a fistful of twenties? Works in all the movies.

    My experience is that it's not so much that "investigative" part that is the issue, it's that writing a story in a day or two is one thing. Taking weeks or months to piece together some big package takes more time and organizational skills than some folks have.
  3. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    There are papers that still do investigative journalism?

    Is it hyperlocal?
  4. Mediator

    Mediator Member

    Spend an hour or two at your local court, figuring out how to search for documents. Also touch base with the local police and get a contact who can tell you how to get reports. A lot of "investigative" is less stakeouts and late nights than reading things no one else wants to.
  5. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Good advice. Learn how to use Lexis/Nexis. Make a friend on the police force.
  6. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Shouldn't all journalism be investigative? I never really understood that term. Does the rest of the staff just take information at face value? Do they just re-write press releases?
  7. writing irish

    writing irish Active Member

    Cran, why do you hate America?
  8. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    Not really. You should have a questioning mindset at all times, but a good chunk of journalism is devoted to covering events as they unfold, a seperate discipline from going back later and finding out what really happened.

    "Comign up in sports, the scoreboard said the Red Sox were 4-1 winners tonight. But we'll investigate what really happened instead."
  9. writing irish

    writing irish Active Member

    Cran and dixiehack both speak the truth. There's far too much rewriting of press releases going on. Blithely accepting the PR bullshit churned out by the rich and powerful is a betrayal of the public trust. Still, not all reporting is investigative. My years of writing game stories didn't exactly train me to penetrate the obfuscations of corrupt corporations.
  10. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    Oh, so your doing business investigations?


    Won't help if it is a private company of course, but still a hell of a resource.


    Hell of a resource aggregator, and does have stuff on a lot of private companies.

    If you haven't had any business courses from college, I would urge you to audit at least a basic accounting and a basic finance class. They can help you learn how to get into the guts of earnings statements, balance sheets and the like and figure out what's going on. Because as someone else wisely said, success depends on reading through a lot of shit no one else will ever touch.

    If the company works in an unionized industry, that union probably has plenty of tips for you, a handful of which might be valid.
  11. writing irish

    writing irish Active Member

    Excellent stuff, dixie.

    Yup, at the moment I'm researching business practices...specifically, companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
  12. One problem is that a lot of people in this business, particularly sports managers, believe that if you aren't interviewing someone, then you aren't really reporting.
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