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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Most investigative journalism is done by newspapers, wire services and freelance journalists. Practitioners sometimes use the terms "watchdog journalism" or "accountability reporting."

As part of an investigation, journalists make use of:

  • analysis of documents, such lawsuits and other legal documents, tax records, government reports, regulatory reports and corporate financial filings.
  • investigation of technical issues, including scrutiny of equipment and its performance
  • research into social and legal issues
  • subscription research sources such as LexisNexis
  • numerous interviews with on-the-record sources as well as, in some instances, interviews with anonymous sources (for example whistleblowers)
  • federal or state Freedom of Information Acts to get documents and data from government agencies.


Professional definitions

In The Reporter's Handbook: An Investigator's Guide to Documents and Techniques, Steve Weinberg defined investigative journalism as: Reporting, through one's own initiative and work product, matters of importance to readers, viewers or listeners. 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 journalism.

De Burgh (2000) states that: "An investigative journalist is a man or woman whose profession it 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."

Notable examples

Ida Tarbell's history of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company

Lincoln Steffens's "Shame of the Cities" series on municipal corruption

Seymour Hersh's stories on the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War

Woodward and Bernstein's reporting on the Watergate break-in and other Nixon-administration-related crimes

Mark Dowie's Mother Jones magazine investigation of fatal dangers in the Ford Pinto automobile.

See also


  • Investigative Journalism: Context and Practice, Hugo de Burgh (ed), Routledge, London and New York, 2000.

Further reading

  • Investigative Reporting: A Study in Technique (Journalism Media Manual), by David Spark, (paperback) 1999.
  • Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism That Changed the World, John Pilger, ed.

External links

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