Investigative Journalism


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My presentation to Wits Power Reporting Conference on the future of investigative reporting (as I imagine it) with some detail of what we have been doing at the Daily Dispatch

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Investigative Journalism

  1. 1. The view from a little newsroom
  2. 2.  The present is exciting – and the future is thrilling  Digital media give us a wonderful story-telling platform and new tools to conduct our journalism  Static, one-dimensional presentations of stories evolve into multi-dimensional and sophisticated packages which allow the reader or online user to explore your own understanding of the truth  New media is breathing new life into journalism – and is making new styles of investigative reporting possible  With new media it is possible to amplify stories like never before
  3. 3.  Daily Dispatch sort of stumbled onto a style of investigation which has become our own  For lack of a better term I call it “social investigation”  We have found that new media is not just an important element of this story-telling – but it is a cornerstone for it  Our learning curve has been steep and continues
  4. 4. Our timeline  It’s a very short timeline: we haven’t been doing this for terribly long at all  Our approach has been to experiment – and try and answer a few questions along the way  Due to our own limited resources we use open source or free web tools where ever possible  We build our packages using Wordpress which is easy to use 2011 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  5. 5. July 2007: Dispatch team broke Frere Baby Death stories Our first big investigation in years BUT although we had shot sneaky video and had other multi-media elements we had never conceived or properly thought of the online elements of the story 2011 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  6. 6. 2008: At the beginning of 2008 we relaunched a website which had a lot more functionality and potential for us to do more interesting journalism. Began a discussion in the newsroom around: “How can we tell stories differently and better using online tools and platform. How do we move beyond offering video and pictures as added value to what is essentially just print journalism online”? 2011 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  7. 7. End 2008/2009: Began work on our Somali Dying to Live (funded by Taco Kuiper grant) Was conceived from the beginning as an online/print project And it turned out to be very different from anything we had done before 2011 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  8. 8. March 2009: Reporters lived with Somali refugees, blogging about their lives and experiences, did powerful video interviews and packages as well as slideshows. For the first time we thought about the 2011 online story and its elements BEFORE we began – and not after 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  9. 9. March 2009: Used timelines and maps to add more to the story All of these are free tools on the web: Dipity for timelines Google Maps for the maps 2011 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  10. 10. July 2009: Did another major project looking at the failure of housing delivery within the province – again conceived as an online/print entity from the beginning. A strong element of all of these projects has been “living there”, really steeping ourselves in the story and its material and then trying to make this material live again for our readers 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  11. 11. November 2009: Investigation into slumlords in our community which has involved reporter living undercover for two months in these slums. He has identified some of the key slumlords and has a pile of great material from inside these hovels. Will be our most sophisticated web package yet 2007 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010
  12. 12.  The heart of investigative reporting hasn’t changed  It’s still about a journalist working hard and digging deep in a search for truth and answering the same questions  Online and new media tools give us powerful story-telling techniques which make ALL journalism better… but this is just the beginning
  13. 13.  The future of investigative reporting – and journalism – is here already  Digital tools are opening up entirely new areas of journalism – and there is a lot of learning ahead  Some of these techniques have been around for decades but technology and the web is allowing this potential to explode
  14. 14.  Three major new areas:  1. Data visualisation as a mainstream journalism tool  2. GIS or geo-located information  3. Crowd-sourcing: investigation and collaborative work between users and news professionals
  15. 15.  Once a hard-core science tool – now becoming mainstream, easier to use and access  Many Eyes by IBM  Google Fusion  Swivel  Adobe Flux and Flare open source
  16. 16. Data visualisation using Many Eyes to show TB deaths globally
  17. 17. Teenage pregnancy higher in US states where religion is “very important” (Swivel chart)
  18. 18.  Huge possibilities for us to understand layers of information and how it relates to a geographic context  Simple ways of using it and plenty of open source technology  Easiest is Google Maps but plenty of more sophisticated stand-alone and open source options
  19. 19.  Many obvious applications to give us great story leads  Crime stats versus household income  Disease and illness stats in areas versus public health spending etc  Food prices layered on poverty stats – do the poor pay more for food?  These representations give us fresh starting points for investigative reporting
  20. 20.  The Telegraph’s amazing investigation into MPs expenses led to an enormous crowdsourcing investigative reporting project – by the Guardian
  21. 21.  Sites like HelpMeInvestigate recruits users to assist make investigations possible and produced a brilliant investigation into the most ticketed streets in Birmingham  Other models from Spot.Us brings readers in by asking them to sponsor reporting projects – community-funded reporting  Potentially allows journalists to access voices and sources like never before as well as recruiting non-conventional partners in our investigations
  22. 22.  My crystal ball shows me…..  Data visualisation allows us to generate story foundations and simply depict information for readers  GIS or mapping technologies allows us to see nuances and relationships between information and place  Crowdsourcing brings armies of assistants into play  Online platforms allow us to tell deep and media rich stories
  23. 23.  But the story only lives when reporters do what they have always done…  Getting their hands dirty, with old-fashioned reporting out in the field