Online investigative journalism
Democracy is founded on a number of principles, including theaccountability of elected representatives and civil servants to thepeople. Ideally, a host of mechanisms should guarantee this, but eventhe best systems may be abused. Experience shows that whenwrongdoing does take place, investigative journalists are among thosebest placed to expose it and ensure that justice is done.
The international anti censorship organisation Article XIX (Article 19:2000)
Daily reporters are deluged with transitory events which sometimes obscure the larger
issues; the gaffes, media releases, staged photo opportunties and hot house intrigues
of parliamentary politics. Pressed by deadlines, hemmed by the size of the news hole
and isolated from research facilities, daily journalists are frequently forced to ignore
the stories behind the news. In doing so, journalists can be seen to fail to make
Journalism could be said to be non fiction writing (news) which relies on identifiable
sources. Investigative Journalism might be defined as finding important news
someone does not want the public to know. Journalists, as Article 19 suggested, have
professional and ethical responsibilities to look beyond what they have been told by
those in authority. Investigative Journalists can as a result be seen as custodians of the
public conscience. According to Ettema and Glasser, this does not mean that
investigative journalists should decide how everyone else should behave:
They are not the guardians of some superior moral knowledge. Ratherthese journalists have the means to report and disseminate stories thatcan engage the public's sense of right and wrong. These journalistsare, in other words, custodians of exactly what we imagine ourconsciences to be: a morally engaged voice.(Ettema/Glasser: 1998. P4)
Investigative journalism combines basic journalism reporting skills with more
advanced research methods. Original research was seen as the distinguishing feature
It is not a summary or piecing together of others' findings and data,but original research carried out by reporters using often the rawest ofmaterial. It can be extensive interviewing, or matching and comparingfacts and figures. In many cases, the fruits, and originality, come indiscovering patterns and connections in the information that no onehas observed before. (Randall: 1996. pp78/79)
Randall wrote that investigative reports often resulted from a "suspicion of
wrongdoing". An investigative reporter would be required to engage in a prolonged
inquiry, compiling a research dossier, from which a story or stories might be written.
Such inquiries would require reporters and editors to manage time and resources, so
that results might be maximised, he said. Investigative reporting on the net
Interviews, documents, surveillance and surveys are the tools of theinvestigative reporter. The reporter learns which to use at a certaintime, like a golfer who knows which club to use under differentconditions as he or she progresses through a course. The bestinvestigators during the course of their investigation may draw on allof the tools at one time or another. (Gaines : 1998. p17)
The Internet offers investigative journalists new tools for reporting; qualified access
to global communities of interests which may provide alternate sources to those in
authority. In doing so, it presents opportunities and problems for investigative
reporters. Meanwhile, it impacts on production processes with radio, television and
text journalism practices converging through digitisation on the internet; towards a
new hybrid profession, ejournalism. With faster computers, newer compressed
programs and wider band widths, internet publications will rapidly offer more
sophisticated, interactive variants of the older media.
Such investigative reporting need not be expensive or beyond the reach or ordinary
journalists. But it does require greater commitment than daily journalism. Daily news
reporting can be relatively quick, clean and have clear objectives. Investigative
journalists must transmit complex information to a very wide public; applying
illustrations, audio grabs, computer generated graphics, and library footage
appropriate to their selected medium.
The Internet has become a new source for investigative reporters. It allows non linear
alternatives in journalism style. It offers opportunities for independent publishing.
But in doing so it eclipses earlier notions that journalists can be defined as merely
those employed by mainstream mass media. Ejournalism: Communications
In 1870, the famous London Times correspondent, William Russell found his essays
on the Franco Prussian war scooped by less well known competitors who cabled the
In the past, only news 'flashes' had been transmitted by wire. Now anarmy of pushing, vulgar, uncouth and alarmingly effective Americancorrespondents had taken the field, who regarded the mails as a toolof the stone age, and relied almost exclusively upon the telegraph tofile their despatches. (Hastings: 1995. xxiv)
Internet delivered Email, voice and video links allow contemporary reporters to
maintain global links with their editors and participate in editorial conferences where
stories are discussed. Text, vision and audio items are created in digitised files which
may be easily transmitted to base by telephone, satellite link or radio broadcast. The
huge and cumbrous portable live broadcast facilities used by CNN to cover the Gulf
war are already being replaced by laptops, modems and satellite phones. During the
Hong Kong handover in 1997, photographers were filing from the China border even
There was a Swedish guy who had a very tight deadline who wasusing a sat [satellite] phone to send his material directly back [toSweden]. He plugged his digital camera into his laptop, added thecaptions and then dialled his newspaper direct. (Tatlow:1997)
Ejournalism : Production
Modern news writing devolved from a clipped pyramidal style developed for
economic transmission of stories from remote locations via the telegraph. That style
influenced the choice journalists made when they constructed stories; eg. The quote
sought in interviews, the illustrations selected and the headlines. These usually
unstated production requirements became a learned part of a pervasive newsroom
Journalists have been quick to adopt new communications technology but may be
slower to abandon old practices. Early radio news reports consisted of an announcer
reading newspaper stories on air. Early television bulletins seemed to be little more
than radio with pictures. New styles evolved to meet the potentials of the newer
media. Agence France Press Webmaster, David Sharp said the internet was already
affecting the way AFP journalists wrote their stories:
The worldwide web creates the possibility for hyper linking thereforethere is a possibility to create much richer story structures which initself can also create problems because it's very easy to buildstructures which are too complicated for people to follow. But forgeneral reading of stories there is definitely a trend towards brevitybecause it's well known for example that the average person readingtext from a screen will read about 25% slower than the same personreading the same information from a printed page. People generallydo not want to scroll so there's another reason for brevity. There tendsto be a trend towards using more subtitles as in bulleted lists, gettinguse to the idea that on the Internet people can and do begin reading astory at any point. Therefore you need to structure stories in such away that different parts of it are comprehensible in themselves. So Ithink it is changing the way people write.1
1 Sharp, David. Personal Interview. Sydney. November 1999.
Ejournalism transcends and incorporates the one dimensional stories of earlier media.
Stories on the Internet will be multi-faceted and the journalists who produce them will
need to be multiskilled: able to create logical and clear textual accounts, link
information, gather audios and take videos and photo images. They will be able to
incorporate them all on a single or series of websites. Linear concepts of news can as
a result be expected to transform into multi layered reports reflecting the wider choice
Ejournalism : Distribution:
The Internet allows the polished digitised product to be published globally; wherever
computers are linked to the telecommunications grid. Deadlines can become
meaningless as material can be filed quickly and maintained on the web indefinitely.
Censorship has been made more difficult as web publishers proliferate. Journalist
organisations such as the British based Association of Investigative Journalists
established websites to create an outlet for reports mainstream conventional media
The decline in investigative journalism, and individual outlets forsuch serious reporting, is a pernicious form of implied censorship; thepresence of light entertainment or consumer journalism in place of,say, a programme such as World in Action means that the issues thatwould otherwise have been presented to the public in suchprogramming are effectively barred from public consumption. Part ofour task is to challenge such censorship in all its forms. (http://www.aij-uk.com/policy.html)
However wider distribution can be at the cost of easy validation, undercutting notions
of news as authenticated and credible versions of events. According to newsagency
Internet editor, Sharp, journalists have an expanded role, bringing meaning to the
People are getting used to the notion now that if they have a questionthey can find the answer to it very quickly and if they don't there'ssomething wrong. Whereas in the past the consumer basically had toaccept what they got out of the print newspaper which was a limited
amount of news. The concept of an infinite news hole which the webprovides, is a very attractive concept. But it is also a very dangerousone, because human beings can only absorb no more than a givenamount of information at any given time. Therefore the problem thatarises with the Web is no longer a problem of accessing informationbut the problem of having too much information. Therefore it has tobe organised, structured, and made meaningful in ways that weren'tnecessary before. (Sharp: 1999)
In short, the web provides a continuing role for journalists acting as mediators of
information; professional writers who assemble identifiable cultural packages for
Ejournalism : Interaction
Communications were revolutionised in 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell received
a patent for the telephone. With this new medium, two way, immediate
communication over long distances was possible for the first time.
The telephone changed the way people conducted business, relayedimportant information, and, as the technology became moreaffordable, socialised with one another. As teenagers once aggravatedtheir parents by hours talking on the telephone, today they can fulfilthe same urges on the Internet -in chat rooms and on the Net. (Moschovitis et al:1999 p 6)
The net offers audiences more variable interactions than those previously offered by
edited newspapers' letter pages or the theatrical radio talk back programs. Moderated
bulletin boards or email discussion groups can allow informed interaction with an
informed audience. Foreign correspondents regularly participate in lists including H-
Asia (historians, researchers, Orientalists) and Listserv SEASIA (journalists, Asia
scholars). Such lists can provide contact with identified, credible sources with access
to significant background material. In recent years, issues including Taiwan's
elections, Nato's bombing of a Chinese embassy and the Asian economic downturn
have all been the subject of erudite discussion on these lists.
Open chat programs and discussion groups can also sometimes be a source for stories.
Ejournalist, Matt Drudge, broke the news about President Clinton's affair with
Monica Lewinsky with the help of tip offs from the net. Drudge saw his reporting as
reporting stories ignored by the insider culture of the Washington press corps. The
News Editor of Business Week magazine dismissed Drudge's often unsourced work as
"suspect in the eyes of most journalists". But Drudge told the National Press Club in
Washington that he received six million visitors a month to his website which began
We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices. Everycitizen can be a reporter, can take on the powers that be. Thedifference between the Internet, television and radio, magazines,newspapers is the two-way communication. The Net gives as muchvoice to a 13-year-old computer geek like me as to a CEO or speakerof the House. We all become equal. And you would be amazed whatthe ordinary guy knows. (Drudge: 1998)
However, not all information is created equally. Subsequent lawsuits against Drudge
would indicate that tips gathered from chat groups or anonymous informants must be
verified and investigated by journalists. Drudge's early success may be more
attributed his daring to use to the power of publication on the internet, rather than the
Truth seeking on the web
Investigative reporters, in one way or another, affirm theircommitment to the idea that they can and must find out what reallyhappened. But like historians and judges, they must rely ondocuments, records, artifacts, and memories in the effort to do so. Under these conditions the process for establishing the truth cannotentail the examination of what really happened, followed by theproduction of the single correct account that corresponds to whatreally happened. Rather, the process must entail the location andexamination of existing accounts and the production of still anotheraccount that can be accepted as authoritative.
Ettema and Glasser in Custodians of Conscience (New York. Columbia University Press. 1998. p137)
Investigative journalism may seek to serve the public interest by telling stories of
outrageous private misbehaviour by public officials. Journalists may not be secular
saints. However, moral outrage should not justify questionable behaviour by
reporters. There are sound practical reasons for this approach. If they are to have any
credibility, journalists who seek to expose wrong doing must themselves be seen to
understand ethics. Public relations practitioners may try to discredit reporters by
diverting the debate to attacks on the way the story was produced. Politicians may use
the privilege of parliament to defame their critics.
Clearly sourcing is critical to journalism which assumes to be investigative reporting.
Investigative stories are constructed on a series of sources. A misquotation can bring
the whole structure down, leaving the journalist, editor and publisher vulnerable to
legal action. Under these circumstances, sourcing must be accurate, contextual and
systematic. The web offers thousands of accessible sources for journalists. Avenues
Official Government Sources
Free political journalism is an essential part of democracy, a safeguardagainst totalitarianism. In every Parliament House, a paradox may beobserved: living side by side are politicians who try to keep much ofwhat they say and do, and political journalists whose aim is topenetrate the secrecy which and officials try to maintain. The outcomeof this constant struggle is a compromise. The politicians andofficialsare not able to suppress all that they wish to keep secret. Thejournalists are unable to discover all thatshould, in the public interest,be publicised.
Age Political reporter, John Bennets wrting in the 1965 cadetjournalists guide, The Journalists Craft (Sydney:
Governments everywhere have gone online, and more data is being daily.
Government web sites include speeches, policy documents, briefing materials,
department structures and responsibilities, telephone indexes and biographies.
Political statements can be crosse referenced and contextualised by computer.
Political reporters who still need to rely on media releases can down load them for
confirmation and possible inclusion. Most media releases are also archived on the
web, allowing statements and policies to be checked against earlier pronouncements.
The ABC's former chief political reporter, Matt Peacock said that computers made it
easier to search for relevant documents, which might have otherwise ended "in the
…A big difference now with the Web is that you can go back andpeople are much more on the record, particularly governments. Sothat you do a search on a particular subject and you'll be able tounearth the press releases that the Minister, or whoever else it is, saida year or two years or three years ago on that same subject. So they'rea little bit more accountable and it's a bit easier now to search for that. But certainly the key to what could be called investigative journalismbut could also be called just good, professional journalism, is havingtime. (Peacock:2000)
There are two questions that investigative researchers should askthemselves before conducting research on an individual: first is therea substantial case for undertaking research on that particularindividual, or is the research motivated by nothing more than merecuriosity? And the second question should be: is this the rightindividual to be researching, or is there another individual (or others)relevant to this piece of investigative research who should bescrutinised?
David Northmore in Lifting the Lid (London. Wellington House. 1996.pp 77)
Individuals provide colour and context of investigative stories. Electoral rolls,
digitised telephone indexes professional associations and even university records can
add to the public knowledge of individuals' private activities. Information can be
drawn from hotlinked sites or any of the many professional information gathering
EG Profnet Global (http://www.profnet.com/america.html) can supply reporters
queries about individuals with information from universities, corporations,
government agencies, NGO's and PR agencies. The group also maintains an
international "experts" data base.
Email interviews can be directed through lists such as the Address Directory of
Politicians of the world which claims addresses for the monarchs, presidents and
prime ministers of 196 countries. (http://www.trytel.com/~aberdeen/)
Businesses play a critical yet sometimes unreported role in the political process.
Business writer, Brian Toohey, said that corporate assumptions had infiltrated
government and opposition policies. Understanding business interests was critical to
understanding many government decisions. (Toohey: 2000)
Why investigate business? According to Steve Weinberg businesses enjoy a
First, private businesses are beneficiaries of government assistance,including industrial development bonds, tax forgiveness or deferral,research grants, depreciation allowances and direct subsidies. As aresult, taxpayers everywhere have a monetary interest. Second,taxpayers' lives are influenced when they buy or the government buysgoods and services of shoddy quality or at inflated prices. Third, manycitizens and governments invest in corporate stocks and bonds, givingthem a stake in management performance. Fourth, businesses, throughlobbying and campaign contributions, influence legislative andexecutive branch policymaking, often behind closed doors.
Steve Weinberg in The Reporter's Handbook: An investigators'sGuide to Documents and Techniques. (New York: St Martin's Press. 1996. pp279.
Corporate sites flourish on the web. Company records, annual reports, major
transactions and share releases were frequently available in government agency sites
(EG:the Australian Investment and Securities Commission). Major Stock exchanges
such as those in London, Hong Kong, New York and Sydney offered information and
Bloombergs, which aims to be the "definitive business news service" claims that
"there is no better way to understand perceptions of politics, policy, business and
finance than by visiting the markets every day". (Winkler and Wilson: 1998 p 76).
Bloombergs operate a PC based, international, interactive business news service
delivered in text , audio and television. Databases
Data bases are now used in several ways by most US dailies. Formost, the old paper "morgue" of clipped stories has been replaced by acomputerised library in which the paper's own stories are stocked. Second, commerical data bases are routinely searched by reportersseeking various kinds of background information. Third, somenewspapers construct their own databases on specialisedtopics.Finally the analysis of the computerised records ofgovernment agencies has become increasingly common.
Margaret De Fleur. Computer Assisted Investigative Reporting. 1997. Erlbaum Associates. New Jersey. p41.
Database analysis, or Computer Assisted Reporting, can provide statistics an
overview to background a story, indicating how important it might be in the general
state of things. The challenge for investigative reporters is to find accurate and
appropriate data and use it in ways that a general audience can understand and relate
Computer Assisted Reporting takes records from government agencies, making use of
federal or state versions of freedom of information legislation, deciphering coding
documentation, transferring compactly stored data into software (spreadsheets or
statistical packages) and using statistical procedures to analyze the information to
CAR usually requires training in spreadsheet construction and journalists applying
this technique frequently need the support of specialist researchers and librarians.
CAR works on deadline if you remember computers don't have todrive the story. Computers can enhance the story. View the computeras another tool --one that help you find information or do quickanalysis on deadline. (Roberts: 1999)
Journalists are presumed to play a critical role in the democratic process. Yet politics
can become a scripted event where spectacle can overwhelm substance. Spin
merchants may seek to create a series of television friendly vignettes, where critical
questions are discouraged and performances are enhanced. Journalists can then
become seen as minor players in the same unfolding drama they are attempting to
This blurring of such roles is evident both in domestic political reporting and the
coverage of international events. During the Hong Kong handover, more than five
thousand members of the international press were screened by government public
relations controllers, security checked, balloted to even enter events, and mostly
denied the opportunity to ask questions; giving them little alternative to a “press
release reality”. A former news editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review suggested
that such reporters might as well have been in South America when it came to the
quality of eye witness coverage of the handover.(Knight/Nakano: 1999. p162.)
But should this process necessarily reduce reporters to being little more than
reviewers? Should journalism practitioners explore new methods of news gathering;
ones which are beyond the reach of the spin merchants seeking to dominate
The Internet may provide alternatives here for pressed reporters. The computers and
modems which they increasingly use to file their stories from field, might just as
easily be used for news gathering. Online investigative reporting could then offer a
more substantial solution to contrived press release realities.
The Internet is already shaping the ways journalists communicate, construct their
stories, publish their material and interact with their audiences.
Time remains a critical factor in the creation of quality journalism. Reporters can be
expected to continue to strive to beat deadlines and competitors, allowing little margin
for reflection. The web however, presents journalists with new opportunities to offer
more than mere reviews of official media releases. In Australia, political
correspondents would if they chose to do so, be able to look beyond the in house
intrigues seen to dominate national affairs. They might not find it necessary to
bludgeon ignorant politicians in cock pit interviews. In Hong Kong, local reporters
might find it more fruitful to abandon traditional door stops and staged interviews to
investigate the businesses behind the leaders who control the former British colony.
Certainly, the international correspondents who visited the SAR for the handover to
China in 1997, might have better served their publics by looking behind the carefully
If they do so, they might choose alternatives to press release realities. Bibliography
De Fleur, Margaret. Computer Assisted Investigative Reporting. 1997. Erlbaum
Ettema, James, Glasser, Theodore. Custodians of Conscience: InvestigativeJournalism and Public Virtue. Columbia University Press. New York. 1998.
Gaines, William Investigative Reporting for Print and Broadcast Nelson-Hall
Hastings, Max. "Introduction", Hudson, Roger. (ed) William Russell: SpecialCorrespondent of The Times. Folio Society. London. 1995.
Kingston, Margot. Off the Rails: the Pauline Hanson trip. Allen&Unwin. Sydney,
Knight, Alan and Nakano, Yoshiko, Reporting Hong Kong: the Foreign Press andthe Handover. Curzon. London. 1999.
Moschovitis et al. A History of the Internet. ABC-CLO Books Santa Barbara. 1999.
Randall, David The Universal Journalist . Pluto Press. London. 1996.
Simons, Margaret. Fit to Print: Inside the Canberra Press Gallery. UNSW Press.
Walraff , Gunther. The Undesirable Journalist, Pluto Press, London, 1977.
Weinberg, Steve. The Reporter's Handbook: An investigators's Guide to Documentsand Techniques. St Martin's Press. New York. 1996.
Winkler, Matthew and Wilson, David, The Bloomberg Way: a guide for reporters andeditors. Bloomberg News. 1998. Articles/Papers
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Hong Kong Journalists Association. "HKJA launches campaign for open
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of journalism educators under one country two systems" The East West Centre
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Mitchell, Chris “Why the southern media got One Nation so wrong”, The Brisbane
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Freedom Forum Technology Conference for Educators. February 28. March 3, 1999. Interviews
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Address Directory of Politicians of the World :http://www.trytel.com/~aberdeen/
Agence France Press: http://www.afp.com/english/
Association of Investigative Journalists: http://www.aij-uk.com/
Centre for Investigative Reporters: http://www.muckraker.org/
Dateline Hong Kong: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/2365/
Drudge Report: http://www.drudgereport.com/
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: http://www.icij.org/
Investigative Reporters and Editors: http://www.ire.org
Philippine Center [sic] for Investigative Journalism: http://www.pcij.org.ph/
Door Els De Letter, Bart Vandekerkhove, Willy Lambert, Dirk Van Varenbergh en Michel Piette Een doorverwijzing naar een hospitaal of rust- en verzorgingstehuis (RVT) is meestal een geruststelling voor familie en vrienden. Toch gebeurt af en toe een onverwacht en accidenteel overlijden als gevolg van verpleegkundige handelingen en meer in het bijzonder het gebruik van bewegingsbeperkende maatr
Federal Trade Commission The Role of Static and Dynamic Analysis in Pharmaceutical Antitrust Remarks of J. Thomas Rosch* Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission Fifth Annual In-House Counsel Forum on Pharmaceutical Antitrust New York, NY February 18, 2010 Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. You heard from a number of my colleagues