5 key ingredients to investigative journalism

June 25, 2018

Executive Director of Global Investigative Journalism Network David Kaplan breaks down five attributes of defining investigative journalism. GIJN runs conferences and workshops, provides investigative resources, and trains and networks journalists around the world in 72 countries. So what exactly is investigative journalism? Here are a set of characteristics that describe the field. 

1. Systematic in depth original reporting - You are taking your time and going through something in a systematic way to really understanding what is going on in the world. The work is original as well as in depth. 

2. Forming a hypothesis - Good investigative reporters tend to think like an honest public prosecutor or a good police detective. They form a hypothesis about what is going on. They use the scientific method. You form a theory and you find the facts to support it. This is one of the hardest parts in investigative journalism. 
3. Analyse public documents and data - The third element of investigative journalism involves using lots of public records and public data. Investigative reporters often talk a lot about following trails. Trails of people, money of institutions and accountability. They do this through paper trails and collect as much as they can on the public record. They got documents and data leaked to them and then they analyse that to follow the trails. 

4. Making public things that are secret or hidden - Investigative reporters are often dealing with secret information. With things that people in power don’t want to come out-- it shows they’ve abused their position or power in society. Part of our job is finding those things and showing people what’s happening. 

5. Focus on social justice and accountability - There has always been this calling in the investigative journalism profession to social accountability. Their mission is to hold companies, institutions and individuals accountable. Investigative reporting has been called the journalism of outrage and for a good reason. Investigative reporters believe in righting wrongs. 

Want to learn more? Watch the full video of David Kaplan explaining investigative journalism below.