Newspapers have been running investigations since their birth. It lies at the heart of journalism and to some extent is what journalism is all about. However, like a lot of practices, investigative journalism is having to find a whole new way of operating.
In days gone by, journalists would hide every piece of information they discovered during an investigation. They would work their hardest to make sure no one found out what they knew or what they were looking into, often even hiding it from their editors. Then, once they had found out the juiciest information, it would be published as an exclusive report and the journalist would be congratulated on their scoop.
Last week at news:rewired, one of the sessions was on collaboration in investigative journalism. A lot was said about the uses of working with other organisations and publications when working on an investigation.
Something I found particularly interesting was what Paul Lewis, Special Projects Editor at The Guardian, said about the death of the scoop. He said: “The scoop is gone so forget it. We’re about advancing forward piece by piece now. What’s more important is that the truth gets out – not who put it out or how. It’s a really exciting time.”
And I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a really exciting time to be going into journalism. Investigations are becoming more and more open, with Paul Lewis saying his team will even be tweeting about everything they are investigating from now on. They want everyone to be involved in the investigation process, with readers sharing what they know and giving new leads to The Guardian journalists.
And for me, this move is very exciting. Journalism, to me, is about getting that story. Finding the truth that someone is trying to hide. Though, I have to admit that there’s a part of me that is slightly disappointed the scoop is dead. It would have been exciting to go sneaking around, investigating behind everyone’s back and eventually getting my name on an exclusive report. Even Simon Perry of the Ventnor Blog admitted during the session that getting the scoop was fun.
That said, the move to more open investigating is almost certainly going to be a positive one. With more collaboration between publications and their readers, investigating will become easier for journalists and I guess the hope is that the story will develop quicker and the truth will become evident.
One amazing example of how collaboration has worked in recent investigative reporting is The Guardian’s coverage of the UK Riots in August. Paul Lewis spent five days travelling the country, following where the riots spread. He tweeted the whole time, getting information from people in the areas about what was happening and the best places to go. Following this, the Reading the Riots study being carried out by The Guardian has been set up, which again is based upon a collaboration from readers as well as reporters and researchers.
It’s an exciting time for journalism and I think as a generation of journalists, we can teach a lot to those who’ve been doing the job for a while. We are used to using Twitter and Facebook and other social networks that more mature journalists may be unfamiliar with. And all of these will be helpful for arranging collaborations and getting people involved in investigations.
So give up your desire for the scoop. The scoop is dead. Collaboration is the future.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look