A word like ‘corruption’ can cover a multitude of sins. So, the journalist must determine whether the investigation is about a fraud (lies and false information), a rule-breaking, a nepotism (giving a job, contract or favour to a friend or family member), bribery, negligence, inadequate controls, or deliberate wrongdoing?
The criteria of a good hypothesis (and we will return to this in the next chapter) is that it must be provable (or disprovable) through investigation using concrete facts. A vague, undefined idea cannot be proved or disproved. That is why it is important to be clear and concrete when coming up with story ideas. There is a difference between a businessman stealing tens of millions from a miners’ pension fund to finance his luxury lifestyle, and a secretary who awards her office coffee-machine contract to her sister-in-law. When you pitch a story, you will need to be able to describe your investigative methods. Even at this early stage it is worth thinking about it. It will provide you with an early alert about legal and ethical dilemmas to be resolved; for example, if you may need to work undercover.