Investigative Journalism refers to the type of journalism in which the journalist conducts an in-depth examination on a topic with the goal to reveal corruption so that people in high power are held accountable for their wrong doings (Singh 2014). Investigative journalism is important in society because it is one of the ways in which people are forced to be liable for their illegal or mismanaged activities (Singh 2014). Because of investigative journalism, people are either encouraged to do things the right way, or if they do not, they are at least recognized for violating policies.
Journalism has been evolving into investigative journalism lately for a couple of reasons. One reason is because it increases the demand for newspapers because people are drawn towards stories that reveal scandals, “People are more attracted towards investigative story, investigated by journalist and these create demand in the society of newspaper or electronic media, which creates its TRP and by this means revenue, is generated, though in the garb of investigative journalism some journalist is going for the fabricated story to increase their revenue.” (Singh 2014, 354). This is preferred over traditional journalism because traditional journalism only reports the information that is available, whereas investigative journalists dig deeper to find bad information and reveal it (Singh 2014). Investigative journalism also involves something called muckraking, “…in this the main aim of it is to find out as much as “BAD‟ information as can be found about an individual or any organization. It focuses on negative, errors or fault. Its object is to destroy.” (Singh 2014, 354). This is part of the investigation process to reveal a scandal.
Investigative journalism is often confused with leak journalism. Leak journalism is information available due to the negligence of the person who is committing the crime or causing corruption (Singh 2014). The difference is that investigative journalism aims to intentionally discover things that people in higher power are trying to cover up, not just report the information that they have unintentionally leaked without further examination.
An example of investigative journalism is the investigation of the Watergate break in lead by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are journalists recognized for revealing what is known as the “biggest story of twentieth-century American politics” (Bernstein).
“On June 18, 1972, a Washington Post front page story reported the previous day’s break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s office in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. Five men were arrested while attempting to photograph documents and place bugging devices in the offices. The White House dismissed the crime as a “third-rate burglary,” and much of the nation’s media soon dropped interest in what some jokingly referred to as “the Watergate caper.”” (Bernstein). When the scandal was brushed under the rug to be forgotten about, Bernstein and Woodward continued to investigate and report stories. “Eventually, in an October 10, 1972 story, Woodward and Bernstein were able to disclose in detail that the Watergate break-in was part of a larger effort to sabotage Nixon’s political opponents–paid for through the CRP under the direction of some of Nixon’s closest aides.” (Bernstein). Eventually, the Watergate burglars were convicted of the crime, “On April 30, due to the mounting evidence of their personal involvement, Nixon’s Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst all resigned and Presidential Counsel John Dean was fired.” (Bernstein). In this particular incident, Bernstein and Woodward were successful in their investigative journalism because they revealed corruption caused by high powered people and forced the system to hold those people accountable.
In conclusion, the main purpose of investigative journalism is to bring to light the wrong doings that frequently take place in positions of high power, and force those people to take responsibility for their actions. While this is the goal, journalists are not always successful in doing this, though Bernstein and Woodward were successful. Investigative journalism is helpful in sustaining the demand for journalism in newspapers and forcing those in high power to either do the right thing, or face justice when they do not.
Bernstein, C. 1., Buchen, P. W., Buzhardt, J. F., Ehrlichman, J., Ford, G. R., Goldwater, B. M., Company, W. P. (n.d.). Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein: An Inventory of Their Watergate Papers at the Harry Ransom Center. Retrieved December 06, 2017, from http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/fasearch/findingAid.cfm?eadid=00365
Singh, S. (2014). An Analytical Study of Move from Traditional Journalism to Investigative Journalism. International Journal Of Multidisciplinary Approach & Studies, 1(4), 353-360.
Image Attribution: The images used are both attributed to Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0
Written by Amanda Josetti, 2017