Investigative journalism

Last updated

Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Practitioners sometimes use the terms "watchdog reporting" or "accountability reporting".


Most investigative journalism has traditionally been conducted by newspapers, wire services, and freelance journalists. With the decline in income through advertising, many traditional news services have struggled to fund investigative journalism, which is time-consuming and therefore expensive. Journalistic investigations are increasingly carried out by news organizations working together, even internationally (as in the case of the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers), or by organizations such as ProPublica, which have not operated previously as news publishers and which rely on the support of the public and benefactors to fund their work.

The growth of media conglomerates in the U.S. since the 1980s has been accompanied by massive cuts in the budgets for investigative journalism. A 2002 study concluded "that investigative journalism has all but disappeared from the nation's commercial airwaves". [1] The empirical evidence for this is consistent with the conflicts of interest between the revenue sources for the media conglomerates and the mythology of an unbiased, dispassionate media: advertisers have reduced their spending with media that reported too many unfavorable details.[ citation needed ] The major media conglomerates have found ways to retain their audience without the risks of offending advertisers inherent in investigative journalism.[ dubious ]

Professional definitions

University of Missouri journalism professor Steve Weinberg defined investigative journalism as: "Reporting, through one's own initiative and work product, matters of importance to readers, viewers, or listeners." [2] In many cases, the subjects of the reporting wish the matters under scrutiny to remain undisclosed. There are currently university departments for teaching investigative journalism. Conferences are conducted presenting peer reviewed research into investigative

British media theorist Hugo de Burgh (2000) states that: "An investigative journalist is a man or woman whose profession is to discover the truth and to identify lapses from it in whatever media may be available. The act of doing this generally is called investigative journalism and is distinct from apparently similar work done by police, lawyers, auditors, and regulatory bodies in that it is not limited as to target, not legally founded and closely connected to publicity." [3]


American journalism textbooks point out that muckraking standards promoted by McClure's Magazine around 1902, "Have become integral to the character of modern investigative journalism." [4] Furthermore, the successes of the early muckrakers continued to inspire journalists. [5] [6]


An investigative reporter may make use of one or more of these tools, among others, on a single story:


Notable investigative reporters


Bureaus, centers, and institutes for investigations

See also

Related Research Articles

Muckraker Progressive Era reform-minded journalists

The muckrakers were reform-minded journalists in the Progressive Era in the United States (1890s–1920s) who exposed established institutions and leaders as corrupt. They typically had large audiences in popular magazines. The modern term generally references investigative journalism or watchdog journalism; investigative journalists in the US are often informally called "muckrakers".

News media Elements of mass media that focus on delivering news

The news media or news industry are forms of mass media that focus on delivering news to the general public or a target public. These include print media, broadcast news, and more recently the Internet.

Center for Public Integrity American nonprofit investigative journalism organization

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) is an American nonprofit investigative journalism organization whose stated mission is "to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first." With over 50 staff members, the CPI is one of the largest nonprofit investigative centers in America. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Penny press newspapers were cheap, tabloid-style newspapers mass-produced in the United States from the 1830s onwards. Mass production of inexpensive newspapers became possible following the shift from hand-crafted to steam-powered printing. Famous for costing one cent while other newspapers cost around six cents, penny press papers were revolutionary in making the news accessible to middle class citizens for a reasonable price.

Brian Deer Journalist

Brian Deer is a British investigative reporter, best known for inquiries into the drug industry, medicine and social issues for The Sunday Times. Deer's investigative nonfiction book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World, was published in September 2020 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Charles Lewis (journalist)

Charles Lewis is an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C. Lewis founded The Center for Public Integrity and several other nonprofit organizations and is currently the executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication in D.C. He was an investigative producer for ABC News and the CBS news program 60 Minutes. He left 60 Minutes in 1989 and began the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan group which reports on political and government workings, from his home, growing it to a full-time staff of 40 people. When commenting on his move away from prime-time journalism, Lewis expressed his frustration that the most important issues of the day were not being reported.

John M. Crewdson is an American journalist. He won a Pulitzer Prize for The New York Times, where he worked for 12 years. He subsequently spent 26 years in a variety of positions at the Chicago Tribune.

Leonard "Len" Downie Jr., the American journalist, was Executive Editor of The Washington Post from 1991 to 2008. He worked in the Post newsroom for 44 years as Executive Editor, Managing Editor, National Editor, London correspondent, Assistant Managing Editor for Metropolitan News, Deputy Metropolitan Editor, and as an award winning investigative and local reporter. Downie became Executive Editor upon the retirement of Ben Bradlee. During Downie's tenure as Executive Editor, The Washington Post won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper has won during the term of a single Executive Editor, including three Pulitzer Gold Medals for Public Service. Downie currently serves as Vice President At Large at the Washington Post Company, as Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and as a member of several advisory boards associated with journalism and public affairs.

Claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism have been extensively investigated and found to be false. The link was first suggested in the early 1990s and came to public notice largely as a result of the 1998 Lancet MMR autism fraud, characterised as "perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years". The fraudulent research paper authored by Andrew Wakefield and published in The Lancet claimed to link the vaccine to colitis and autism spectrum disorders. The paper was retracted in 2010 but is still cited by anti-vaccinationists.

Collaborative journalism is a growing practice in the field of journalism. One definition is "a cooperative arrangement between two or more news and information organizations, which aims to supplement each organization’s resources and maximize the impact of the content produced." It is practiced by both professional and amateur reporters. It is not to be confused with citizen journalism.

Fredrik Laurin

Fredrik Laurin is a Swedish journalist and special projects editor at Swedish Public Television, SVT.

Joachim Dyfvermark

Joachim Dyfvermark is an Swedish investigative reporter/producer working for the current affairs program Uppdrag granskning broadcast on Sveriges Television.

The Center for Investigative Reporting/Centar za istraživačko novinarstvo (CIN) is a non-profit investigative center that investigates corruption, organized crime and other system irregularities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is based in Sarajevo but covers much of the Balkan region. Its stories appear in local media and other publications. The Center publishes stories and other materials such as online databases, info-graphics, maps and other on its website.

Gerard Ryle is an Irish-Australian investigative reporter who has written on subjects including politics, financial and medical scandals, and police corruption.

Michael Hudson is a Pulitzer-Prize winning American investigative journalist. He is currently on his second stint as a senior editor with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). At ICIJ, Hudson has worked on many major projects, including the organization's Offshore Leaks, China Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations of offshore money laundering and tax avoidance. He was an editor, reporter and writer on the Panama Papers investigation, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. In between his two tours at ICIJ, Hudson worked as global investigations editor at The Associated Press, where he edited the AP's investigation of war crimes and corruption in Yemen, which won a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project International consortium of investigative centers, media and journalists

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), founded in 2006, is a consortium of investigative centers, media and journalists operating in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Central America. OCCRP is the only full-time investigative reporting organization that specializes in organized crime and corruption. It publishes its stories through local media and in English and Russian through its website. In 2017, NGO Advisor ranked it 69th in the world in their annual list of the 500 best non-governmental organizations (NGO).

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists International network of investigative reporters

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is an independent, Washington, D.C.-based international network of more than 200 investigative journalists and 100 media organizations in over 70 countries. Launched in 1997 by the Center for Public Integrity, ICIJ was spun off in February 2017 into a fully independent organization working on "issues such as "cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power." The ICIJ has exposed smuggling and tax evasion by multinational tobacco companies (2000), "by organized crime syndicates; investigated private military cartels, asbestos companies, and climate change lobbyists; and broke new ground by publicizing details of Iraq and Afghanistan war contracts."

Offshore Leaks Disclosure of tax haven client data in 2013

Offshore Leaks is a report disclosing details of 130,000 offshore accounts in April 2013. Some observers have called it the biggest hit against international tax fraud of all times, although it has been pointed out that normal businesses may use the offshore legislation to ease formalities in international trade.

Jake Bernstein is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author. He previously worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. During a 25-year career, he has covered the civil war in Central America, industrial pollution in Texas, political corruption in Miami, system-crashing greed on Wall Street and the secret world of offshore money. He has written travel pieces, reviewed movies and books and taken his journalism to the radio and TV.

Pelin Ünker

Pelin Ünker is a Turkish journalist and a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In the late 2010s she investigated the Turkish dimension of the Paradise Papers affair.


  1. McChesney, Robert W. (2004). The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st century . Monthly Review Press. p.  81. ISBN   978-1-58367-105-4., citing Just, Marion; Levine, Rosalind; Regan, Kathleen (November–December 2002), "Investigative Journalism Despite the Odds", Columbia Journalism Review: 103ff
  2. Weinberg, Steve (1996). The Reporter's Handbook: An Investigator's Guide To Documents and Techniques . St. Martin's Press. ISBN   978-0-312-13596-6.
  3. de Burgh, Hugo, ed. (2000). Investigative Journalism: Context and Practice. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN   978-0-415-19054-1.
  4. Sloan, W. David; Parcell, Lisa Mullikin (2002). American Journalism: History, Principles, Practices. McFarland. pp. 211–213. ISBN   978-0-7864-1371-3.
  5. Tichi, Cecelia (2013). Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900 / 2000. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   978-0-8122-0375-2.
  6. Hess, Stephen (2013). Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978–2012. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN   978-0-8157-2540-4.
  7. "A New Hospital for the Insane". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 1876.
  8. "The Color of Money". Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  9. Godlee, F.; Smith, J.; Marcovitch, H. (5 January 2011). "Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent". BMJ . 342 (jan05 1): c7452. doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452. ISSN   0959-8138. PMID   21209060. S2CID   43640126.
  10. Ziv, Stav (10 February 2015). "Andrew Wakefield, Father of the Anti-Vaccine Movement, Responds to the Current Measles Outbreak for the First Time". Newsweek. New York. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  11. Boseley, Sarah (2 February 2010). "Lancet retracts 'utterly false' MMR paper". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  12. Crewdson, John (30 June 1996). "Cardiac Arrest at 37,000 Feet". Chicago Tribune.
  13. Kovach, Bill; Rosenstiel, Tom (2010). Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload . New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp.  58–60. ISBN   978-1-60819-302-8.
  14. "About". Trappalachia Reports. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  15. "Mountain Corruption: Ex-County Attorney's Misappropriation Goes Unchecked For Years In WNC". Trappalachia Reports. 28 July 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  16. "Unanimous: Judges Find Facebook 'DA Death Threats' Case Against Franklin Man Unjust & Untrue, Area Press On Notice". Trappalachia Reports. 8 April 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  17. Vasilyeva, Natalya; Anderson, Mae (3 April 2016). "News Group Claims Huge Trove of Data on Offshore Accounts". The New York Times . Associated Press . Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 "About the ICIJ". The Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  19. "Gerard Ryle". Center for Public Integrity.
  20. Fitzgibbon, Will; et al. (5 November 2017). "The 1 Percent- Offshore Trove Exposes Trump-Russia Links And Piggy Banks Of The Wealthiest 1 Percent - A new leak of confidential records reveals the financial hideaways of iconic brands and power brokers across the political spectrum". International Consortium of Investigative Journalists . Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  21. Grandoni, Dino (6 November 2017). "Analysis | The Energy 202: What you need to know about Wilbur Ross and the Paradise Papers". Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  22. Disis, Jackie Wattles and Jill. "Paradise Papers: What you need to know". CNNMoney. Retrieved 6 November 2017.

Further reading