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Problems with Written Sources



Stages of Investigative Reporting

(based on Story-Based Inquiry: A manual for investigative journalists

By Mark Lee Hunter and The News Manual Online)

What do investigative reporters, or muckrakers, actually do? For sure, they dont find their revealing facts and exciting scoops just walking in the street. Investigative journalism demands lots of effort, attention to details and patterns, great amount of cabinet work while conducting some additional research. We tried to categorize all sorts of investigative work into several stages. So, this chapter will help you to look inside the investigative process itself.

Stage 1: Preparation

In the first stage of our short manual we provide you with the basic preparations for investigative reporting. What does a journalist need to know before starting his responsible work? What details and tricks should he notice first? And, finally, who or what may help him to receive trustworthy information as quickly as possible?

Making contacts

We cannot stress often enough how important a journalist's contacts are. These are the people who can give you story ideas, information and tell you when you are on the wrong track. Make as many contacts as you can - and look after them as you would a friend.

Good investigative reporters have contacts in the places most likely to provide stories. Your contacts do not have to be people at the top of departments or companies. In fact, people down the ladder are often more practical use. Identify people in key positions within organisations. Good contacts are people like court clerks, council clerks, company clerks - in fact, clerks almost anywhere. These are the people who see all sorts of information you might find useful.

Trade union leaders are good contacts in the commercial world, as are accountants or financial advisers. Because groups such as lawyers, police officers, accountants, doctors, nurses, delivery drivers and politicians enjoy chatting about people in their profession, you only have to establish one or two good contacts within any group to get a lot of information about what is happening within the profession.



Always listen, even if what your contact says is no immediate use. If a contact rings when you are out, always ring them back, otherwise you may lose them. Protect your contacts and never reveal them if they ask you not to. Even contacts such as council clerks who are allowed to give you information openly may not want to seem to be favouring you, so be discreet.

Make good relations with other people in your news organisation. They will have their own contacts who might be useful. It is always good to get to know the people who sell advertising space in your newspaper, radio or television station. They meet all sorts of people in their work and always like to talk. They usually love passing information to their journalists.

Listening

Good journalists know how to listen. Listen to people even if they do not seem to have any useful information. They may still say something you can use later.

If a contact calls you with information which you do not think you can use, do not tell them so immediately. Say you will "look into the matter" and the next time you talk to them, mention that "I couldn't use your information, but thanks anyway". This approach keeps them feeling important.

Interviewing



You will need to interview people in your search for facts. Never interview the person at the centre of the investigation first. Always start at the edge and work your way towards the middle. You must not warn the person under investigation too soon. Also, you need to gather as many facts as possible before you put your questions to the person at the centre.

For example, you may be investigating a rumour that Mr X, the manager of the city rubbish dump, has accepted bribes to allow companies to dump dangerous waste illegally. Start by interviewing drivers of garbage trucks who use the dump, then the managers of their companies and finally, if you have enough information by then, question Mr X himself. Start with those people who are innocent or just on the edge of the corruption (because they will speak most freely), before digging deeper into the centre of the matter.

Making notes

Make lots and lots of notes. Write down everything, however unimportant it may seem at the time.

If you cannot write your notes immediately, write them as soon as possible. For example, if you are having a private conversation with a contact in a club, he may not want other people to see you making notes like a reporter. Make your notes as soon as you get somewhere private, like your car or the toilet!

Keep all your notes in order. It is good practice in a big and lengthy investigation to set up a filing system for notes, reports and other documents. This will keep them in order and separate from any other stories you might be working on at the same time.

Keep all your notes, tapes and documents in a safe place, just in case there is a fire or the office is burgled by the people you are investigating or raided by the police. In an important investigation, make copies of all material and take them home or leave them with a trusted friend, a lawyer or in a bank. You cannot resist the police if they come with a warrant to take material from your office, but you do not need offer them information on where you keep any other copies of your notes.

Protecting documents

Your contacts or anonymous people may give you confidential documents exposing some corruption, such as a letter from Mr X to the rubbish companies asking for bribes (though he might not use that word). Or it could be a confidential report that a new public building is about to fall down, something the government wants to keep secret.

We say that such documents have been "leaked" - like water through a hole in a pipe. You must be especially careful in protecting such leaked documents, because the legal owners of them (such as Mr X or the government) could get a court order forcing you to give them back. If they have a code on them somewhere which can identify that particular copy, they might be able to trace your source who leaked that copy. One tip is to photocopy the document then either destroy the original or hand it back to your source to put back in the proper place. Then you cannot be accused of possessing stolen goods. Now use scissors to cut out any parts of your photocopy which might give clues to who sent it to you. If the police do seize your documents, they may not be able to trace who sent it.

Working in team

Where possible, try to work with another reporter on a big investigation. They can go with you on difficult interviews, to make their own notes, to protect against threats and to support you if the interviewee later denies something he said.

Working with a partner allows you to divide up some of the time-consuming work of chasing leads and checking public records.

A partner will also be able to discuss the story with you in detail. Together you might be able to solve a puzzle which you alone cannot solve.

A partner will also stop you feeling isolated. Because investigative reporting can be a long and lonely job, you need someone near you to give support and tell you when you are going right or wrong.

Focus on a topic:

1. Is it really important to make a good contact list for an investigative journalist? For a PR-manager? Give your reasons.

2. Have you ever interviewed people? How should a journalist behave with the interlocutor who doesnt want to tell anything?

3. Is it easier for you to work alone or in a team? What advantages and disadvantages do these types of work have?

 

Writing task

1. What would you do before doing an investigative assignment or meeting an important news source? Make your own list of preparations (from 5 to 10 stages).

2. How do you understand the quotation: The first step in good reporting is good snooping (Matt Drudge, a political commentator)? What does the speaker mean under snooping?

3. Comment on a phrase: Great questions make great reporting (Diane Sawyer, a television journalist).

 

Stage 2: Sources of information

Work with sources is, maybe, the most significant part of each investigation. Getting information isnt always easy conversely, its the hardest thing in most cases. Thats why you have to acquire as much information as possible from open and accessible sources. The perfect source would be a person who has the pertinent document and is eager to tell you what those documents mean. Dont count on finding the perfect source. Instead, count on having to piece together the information you need from a variety of people and records some of the people not at all eager to talk to you and some of the records difficult to obtain and, if you do gain access to them, difficult to understand. How should you behave in these embarrassing situations? Here youll find the answers.

Human sources

Suppose that a mayor orders to recover paving slabs all over the town, though it isnt needed at that moment and causes a lot of budget costs. This fact wouldnt seem strange if the mayors ex-wife wasnt a head of the large paving slab company that experienced troubles recently. You suspect your town governor in fraud. Who might talk?

Enemies. When you are trying to find out anything bad about a person, his or her enemies are usually the best sources. More often than not, the enemies of a prominent person will have made it their business to find out as much as possible about that persons misdeeds and shortcomings. Frequently, they are happy to share what they know with a friendly reporter.

Friends. Friends are sometimes nearly as revealing as enemies. Im trying to explain and defend their friends actions, they may tell you more than you knew before. Occasionally you may find that someone your target regards as a friend is not much of a friend after all. In the case of our mayor his ex-wife may be in this group either (if she hasnt joined the Enemies category yet).

Losers. Like enemies, losers often carry a grudge. Seek out the loser in the last election, the loser in a power struggle. Bad losers make good sources.

Victims. If you are investigating a failing school system, talk with students and their parents. If your story is about nursing home abuses, talk with patients and their relatives. The honest and hard-working employees caught in a corrupt or incompetent system are victims, too. They can give you specific examples and anecdotes. Their case histories can help you write the story.

Experts. Early in many investigations, there will be a great deal you may not understand. You may need someone to explain how the campaign finance laws could be circumvented, someone to interpret a contract, or someone to decipher a set of bid specifications. Lawyers, accountants, engineers or professors can help you figure out technical jargon or complicated transactions. If they refuse to comment on your specific case, fit the facts you have into a hypothetical situation.

Police. Investigative reporters and law enforcement agents often work the same territory. If you are wise, you will make friends with carefully selected agents. They can and frequently will be of great help. Their files may not be gold mines, but they have investigative tools and contacts you lack. When they get to know and trust you, they will share. Most police like seeing their and their organization's names in the paper. They know, too, that you can do some things they cannot. It takes less proof for you to be able to print that the mayor is a crook than it may take to convince a jury. Most police investigators want to corner wrongdoers any way they can. You can use that attitude to your advantage.

People in trouble. Police use this source and so can you, although you cannot promise immunity or a lesser charge, as the police can. A classic case was the Watergate affair. Once the Nixon administration started to come unraveled, officials trying to save their careers and images began falling all over each other to give their self-serving versions of events. People will react similarly in lesser cases.

Dealing with human sources

As an investigative reporter, you cultivate sources in the same ways a reporter on a beat does. You just do it more quickly. One excellent tactic is to play on their self-interest. Losers and enemies want to get the so-and-so, and thus you have a common aim. (But don't go overboard. Your words could come back to haunt you.) Friends want their buddy's side of the story to be explained. So do you. If you keep in mind that, no matter how corrupt your target may be, he or she is still a human being, it may be easier to deal sympathetically with that person's friends. That attitude may help ensure that you treat the target fairly, as well.

Experts just want to explain the problem as you present it. And you just want to understand. People in trouble want sympathy and some assurance that they still merit respect. No reporter should have trouble conveying either attitude.

Another way to win and keep sources is to protect them. Occasionally, a reporter faces jail unless he or she reveals a source. Even jail is not too great a price to pay in order to keep a promise of confidentiality. More often, the threats to confidentiality are less dramatic. Other sources, or the target of the investigation, may casually ask, "Where'd you hear that?" Other reporters, over coffee or a beer, may ask the same question. Hold your tongue. The only person to whom a confidential source should ever be revealed is your editor.

Human sources pose problems as well as solving them. They may lie to you. To get at an enemy or protect a friend, to make themselves look better or someone else look worse and sometimes just for fun people lie to reporters. No reporter is safe and no source is above suspicion. They may use you, too, just as you are using them. The only reason most people involved on any side of a suspicious situation will talk about it is to enhance their own position. That is neither illegal nor immoral, but it can trip up a reporter who fails to take every self-serving statement with the appropriate grain of salt.

Sources may change their stories as well. People forget. Recollections and situations change. Pressures can be applied. Fear or love or ambition or greed can intrude. A source may deny tomorrow or in court what he or she told you today.

Finally, sources will seldom want to be identified. Even the enemies of a powerful person often are reluctant to see their names attached to their criticisms in print. So are friends. Experts, while willing to provide background information, often cite their codes of ethics when you ask them to go on the record. Police usually will cooperate fully only if you promise them anonymity since they are not supposed to prosecute people in the newspapers. Stories without identifiable sources have less credibility with readers, with editors, even with colleagues.

Written sources

Fortunately, not all sources are human. Records and documents neither lie nor change their stories, they have no axes to grind at your expense and they can be identified in print. Many useful documents are public records, available to you or any other citizen upon request. Others are non-public but still may be available through your human sources.

Public records. As Steve Woodward's work shows, a great deal can be learned about individuals and organizations through records that are available for the asking, if you know where to ask. Let's take a look at some of the most valuable public records and where they can be found.

Property records. Many investigations center on land who owns it, who buys it, how it is zoned, how it is taxed. You can find out all those things from public records. These documents can do you a favour but searching will be much easier if you know the owner for sure.

Corporation records. Every corporation must file with the secretary of state a document showing the officers and principal agent of the company. The document must be filed with every state in which the company does business. The officers listed may be only "dummies," stand-ins for the-real owners. Even if that is the case, you can find out at least who the stand-ins are. Corporations often are regulated by state or federal agencies as well. They file regular reports with the regulating agency. Once you have such corporation records, you must interpret them. Your public library has books that tell you how. Or your newspaper's own business experts may be willing to help.

Court Records. Few people active in politics or business go through life without some involvement in court actions. Check the offices of the state and federal court clerk for records of lawsuits. The written arguments, sworn statements and answers to questions (interrogatories) may contain valuable details or provide leads to follow. Has your target been divorced? Legal struggles over assets can be revealing. Probate court files of your target's deceased associates may tell you something you need to know.

Non-Public Records

Non-public records are more difficult, but often not impossible, to obtain. To get them, you must know that they exist, where they are and how to gain access. Finding out about those things requires good human sources. You should know about a few of the most valuable non-public records.

Investigative files. The investigative files of law enforcement agencies can be rich in information. You are likely to see them only if you have a good source in that, or an affiliated, agency. If you do obtain such files, treat them cautiously. They will be full of unsubstantiated allegations, rumor and misinformation. Be wary of accepting as fact anything you have not confirmed yourself.

Past arrests and convictions. Records of past arrests and convictions increasingly are being removed from public scrutiny. Usually these are easier to obtain from a friendly police or prosecuting official. And usually they are more trustworthy than raw investigative files.

Bank records. Bank records would be helpful in many investigations, but they are among the most difficult to get. Bankers are trained to keep secrets. The government agencies that regulate banks are secretive as well. A friend in a bank is an investigative reporter's friend indeed.

Tax records. Except for those made public by officeholders, tax records are guarded carefully by their custodians, and properly so. Leaks are rare.

Credit checks. Sometimes, you can get otherwise unavailable information on a target's financial arrangements by arranging through your newspaper's business office for a credit check. Credit reports may reveal outstanding debts, a big bank account, major assets and business affiliations. Use that information with care. It is unofficial, and the companies that provide it intend it to be confidential.

Problems with Written Sources

Even when you can obtain them, records present problems. They are usually dull. Records give you names and numbers, not anecdotes or sparkling quotes. They are bare bones, not flesh and blood. They can be misleading and confusing. Many highly skilled lawyers and accountants spend careers interpreting the kinds of records you mav find yourself attacking without their training. Misinterpreting a document is no less serious an error than misquoting a person. And it's easier to do. Documents usually describe without explaining. You need to know the "why" of a land transaction or a loan. Records tell you onlv the "what."

Theres also another source of information that really works - gathering evidence. It is never ethical to trick people to gain evidence for a story, but you can sometimes set your own trap without lying.

For example, if you are investigating a story about Garage X which is charging customers for repairs it never makes, you can test that garage yourself. Perhaps get a faulty car and first take it to a government inspection station or a reputable garage, who will tell you exactly what faults it has. Then take the car to Garage X, posing as an ordinary customer, not telling them that you are a journalist. When they say they have completed the repairs, take the car back to the original garage that you trust, and get a report from them on whether or not the repairs have been done. You or your colleagues will need to do this several times before you can be sure that Garage X really is cheating people, not just making mistakes in its work. Then you should confront the Garage X owner with your evidence and ask him to explain.

A word of warning here: do not encourage anyone to break the law. In some countries, such as the United States, this is called "entrapment" and is illegal. For example, if you hear that Mister Y is taking bribes to issue building permits, you must not go up to Mr Y posing as a builder and offer him money - that may be illegal. However, you can go up to Mr Y and ask for a permit and explain that you need it urgently. If he then asks for a bribe, you have your story.

Focus on a topic:

1. What sources of information are mentioned in this stage? Which one, in your opinion, is the most trustworthy?

2. Would you add any other sources to the list? Make your own list with the explanations.

3. Find Russian equivalents to the phrase a word of warming. How many synonyms and clichés can you make up?

 

Creative task

  1. Role-play a stress interview. Your interlocutor doesnt want to share any information but youre trying to do your job anyway. Your source may be:

a) a bankrupt millionaire,

b) a mother of a kidnapped child,

c) a close friend that is obviously hiding real story.

  1. Complete the imaginary investigative story about a mayor and his ex-wife. You may choose any turn of events for this investigation.

 

Writing task

Choose one of the following quotations and give your reasons why you agree or disagree with the speakers words:

  1. Reporters tend to find in others what they are suited to find, so there is a whole school of reporting where they are cynical about the world, and everything reinforces that. Whereas I tend to be optimistic and be amused by people and like them, even rather bad people. (Ira Glass).
  2. Well, a lot of people don't want to be quoted. But keep in mind that Bob Woodward did all of his Watergate reporting with anonymous sources, and we know how that turned out. (Edward Klein).

 

Stage 3: Reporting step by step

In this chapter you get acquainted with steps of investigative reporting from preparing the written text to follow-ups that lead the story to the very end.

Publication

If your newspaper, radio or television station is in competition with other news organisations, you will usually try to keep your investigation secret until it is published or broadcast. This is because you may spend many days or even weeks of work on a story, and do not want to give your competitors all your work for free.

It is occasionally also important to keep it secret from people at the centre of your investigation who will be exposed for incompetence, corruption or a crime. Although, as we discussed earlier, you should eventually interview the people who have been accused, you should not give them too long before you publish the story. If you do, they might threaten you, escape or take out a court injunction stopping publication.

The ideal investigation follows these steps:

1. Build up facts until there is no doubt;

2. Interview any people who seem to be doing wrong;

3. Write the story;

4. Make a final check with your lawyer to make sure your story is legally safe;

5. Publish.

Incomplete stories

You may occasionally find that, however hard and long you try, you cannot get all the pieces in the jigsaw. Perhaps some documents are missing, hidden or they cannot be released; perhaps someone refuses to comment. You will have to decide whether or not to publish the incomplete story. Consult with your superiors and lawyer before making the decision.

You will occasionally find that publishing an incomplete story helps to unearth some missing details. A reader or listener may come forward with the information you need. The person who would not comment may realise that silence is no longer useful.

Narrative art requires a satisfying closure but unfortunately, journalists do not have the right to invent one. Instead of endings, we must compose closers. The difference is significant. An ending resolves all the mysteries of a narrative. A closer simply marks the spot where the narrative stops moving forward.

On the one hand, you must be careful to resist the temptation to give your story a final resolution when it doesnt have one. On the other hand, you must suggest what such a resolution could be like. It doesnt have to be long. Albert Londress brilliant exposé of Frances penal colony in Guyane closed with the words: Ive finished. The government must start.

Let the reader know if anyone has an idea about what must be done. You can expose your own ideas, because if youve done the investigation properly, youre now one of the experts on the subject. You may evoke those whove solved similar problems, and point to those who have responsibility for solving it now. A trick that often works is to allow a source, someone who lived the story, to give the last word.

Follow-ups

The story should not end with publication or broadcast. If you have exposed something wrong, you must check to see what is done by people with authority to put it right. Are the police going to press charges against the rubbish dump manager for taking bribes? Will the Minister of Health do anything about the poisonous waste left in the dump? Then you can write a series of follow-up stories, referring back to your original article or documentary.

If you have exposed a defect which will take longer to correct, make a note in your newsroom diary to check perhaps a week, a month or a year later. For example, if you have written a story showing that schools in certain provinces have been starved of teaching staff because of Education Department inefficiency, first find out what the Minister of Education intends to do about it. And perhaps six months later check again if the Minister has supplied the necessary teachers.

If other news organisations in your area or country also do investigative reporting, you will occasionally find that they have their own exclusive story exposing some wrongdoing.

It may be so important that your organisation has to use that story too. In such a case, look for a good angle to follow up. The most usual one is to ask the people under investigation for their reaction, or ask people responsible for putting the situation right - such as the police or a minister - what are they going to do about the situation which has been exposed.

From the moment it is published or broadcast, the competition's story is public property, so follow it up if it seems worthwhile. But remember, your competitor may not have checked their facts properly. Do not trust them. You cannot be sure that their story is true unless you check the facts again yourself. Some quick visits or telephone calls may be all that is needed.

Focus on a topic:

1. What stages before publishing the story are mentioned in the chapter? Is it the same for conventional news reporting?

2. Can an incomplete story make real success? Would you publish such kind of the article where the events are still in progress?

3. Imagine that you wrote an exciting investigative story and later discovered another article on this topic with lots of mistakes. What would you do? Express your point of view on wrongdoing in follow-ups.

 

Writing task

Comment on a phrase: To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don't know about. (Tom Wolfe, an author and journalist).

 

Stage 4: Writing

Investigative reporters must take special care when writing a story. This is because investigative stories usually make someone appear either bad or stupid, accusations which can lead to legal action against you for defamation. You will probably be safe if your story is true and in the public interest. But it can lose the protection of the law if there are serious errors. Someone - probably the people your story exposes as corrupt, dishonest or simply incompetent - will be looking closely for mistakes to attack you on. So you must take extra care.

Writing

Writing stories or scripts based on investigative journalism requires all the skills you need for general journalism. However, given the risks you will face in investigative journalism, a few of the core rules are worth stressing again here:

Stick to facts

You will be much safer if you stick to facts which you can prove are true. That is why you check your facts and get confirmation for each one.

As you write, stop at each new important fact and say to yourself: "Is this true?" Then say: "Have I confirmed it with another source?"

Do not speculate (i.e. write things which might be true, but which you cannot prove). If you do not have all the facts you would like, you may have to be satisfied with a lesser story, as long as it makes sense and contains no errors.

Avoid personal comment

Do not put in your personal opinions. You may be writing a story about someone who has cheated old people out of their life savings. You may hate this man, but you must not say it. You might believe he is evil, but you should not say that either. If you show in your story that you hate this man, that could be seen as malice, which will destroy your defence against defamation.

Just show your readers and listeners the facts. If the man is bad, the facts will lead your audience to that conclusion without you telling them what to think.

Keep your language simple

Keep your sentences short and your language simple and concise. Some investigations will reveal some very complicated facts, perhaps because the person under suspicion has tried very cleverly to hide their wrongdoing. You must simplify this for your readers or listeners, so they get a clear picture of what has happened.

Avoid vague words

Wherever possible, avoid using vague words, such as "a large amount" or "some time later". Words like this show that you do not have accurate details - otherwise you would use them. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but vague words will usually take the strength out of a story.

If you know the man cheated the old people out of $110,854, write that figure somewhere in the story (but not, obviously, in the first few paragraphs, where you should say "more than $100,000").

Check your work

You should check your work at each stage and when you have finished, double check everything again.

Ask yourself again: "Are these facts correct and confirmed?" If you have enough time, put the story to one side for a few hours, then return to it with a fresh view, seeing it as a reader or listener might.

Ask a colleague to read the story and try to find errors. Do not be upset if they expose errors or big gaps in information. It is better to be told now by a colleague than later in a defamation case.

Wherever possible, show the story to your organisation's lawyer, who will bring a fresh mind to the story and spot any legal problems which might arise.

If anyone recommends changes, do not let them write the changes themselves. They will not know the case as well as you do. Get them to explain what is wrong, rewrite that part yourself, then ask if it is right. Never settle for anything you are not completely happy with.

One final check worth making is to ask yourself: "Is there any way I have identified my confidential sources, even though I promised to keep them secret?" Try to read the story as if you are one of the people who has been accused of incompetence or corruption. See if they would be able to identify any of your confidential sources from what you have written. If there is any risk at all, change the story to protect your sources.

Illustrations

Can you use any illustrations to make your story more interesting? Perhaps you can use pictures of the victims looking sad, or someone at the scene of an alleged crime.

In complicated stories, a diagram might help to show how the pieces fit together. For example, in a story involving related companies, you should include a simple box diagram showing with lines and arrows how the companies are related. If your organisation has a graphic artist, ask them for help.

In a story about how a government department has been wasting taxpayers' money, you might use a graph to show how the money has disappeared over the years.

If you have a really important document to support your story, include the relevant sections of that document as an illustration. On television, you can type quotations from the document across the screen as the story is being read out.

On radio and television, use the actual tapes of interviews if you have them. These will add variety and also act as confirmation.

However, if your interviewee wants to remain anonymous, perhaps film them in silhouette or change the sound of their voice electronically.

Headlines

However carefully you write your story to make it safe, a sub-editor may not understand exactly why you use certain words or describe something in a certain way. The sub-editor may write a headline which is wrong or possible defamatory.

Having spent a lot of time working on the story, do not abandon it at this final stage. Discuss possible headlines with the sub-editor, until both of you are satisfied you have done the best job possible.

Some words of warning

As we have said several times in these chapters, there are many dangers to investigative reporting. The greatest danger is that you will do or write something which will allow the person under suspicion to take you to court for defamation or on some other charge. So remember the following:

Sub judice reporting

It may happen that a story you are investigating is also being dealt with by a court. In most countries, a matter before a court is said to be sub judice and there are limits on what can be reported about it, beyond what is said in the court.

Be very careful when covering any sub judice matters. Consult your editor or lawyer for advice. If you make the wrong decision, you could be charged with contempt of court.

Mistakes

If someone complains about a mistake after the story is published or broadcast, never issue an immediate apology or correction without talking first to your editor and lawyer. They will decide what action to take.

Payments for stories

Sometimes people will ask to be paid for their information. Try to avoid this, but sometimes it is necessary, even if it is a few dollars for a tip-off.

However, never pay for something which might have involved criminal activity. For example, if someone asks for $100 to provide a document, then they steal that document, you could be charged as an accomplice to theft. Any payment could be seen as encouraging a crime.

Concealing crimes

Your informant may tell you that they have committed a crime, perhaps that they broke into an office to steal a photograph as proof of corruption. You should never knowingly hide a criminal from the law. If you think that your informant is involved in criminal activities, tell them at the beginning that you do not wish to know anything about it. Talk only about the facts you need to know for your story.

A final warning

You may live in a country where the media are controlled and the government will not allow any real investigative reporting. You and your editor must decide whether or not you should take the risk of carrying out investigative reporting which the government will not like, and may punish you for. But journalists throughout the world have often had to make such decisions. Some have paid the price with imprisonment or death. You must decide in each case whether the issue is worth the risk.

 

Focus on a topic:

1. What coverage will you choose for your investigative story objective or non-objective? Which position is more trustworthy in your opinion?

2. The chapter includes a paragraph about illustrations. What kind of illustration would you choose for your stories photographs or cartoons?

3. Mistakes in your work arent pleasant at all What would you do if you find one in your reporting?

 

Concerning headlines

Writing a headline is always a very responsible task, especially for big investigative deals. It should be strict and provocative, laconic and stylish, convincing and, for sure, catchy. The following article provides you with some secrets of making your headlines catchier no matter what you write about.


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