Investigative journalism can be time-consuming, expensive and risky. And often, investigative journalists need to convince their editors that it is worth undertaking when day-to-day events can produce a perfectly satisfactory newspaper. So why is investigative journalism worthwhile, and what are the primary objections to it?
In transitional countries, the owners of newspapers may believe investigative journalism to be a product of ‘Western’ culture, and it would not work in a developing country. But this practice does not always require extensive time and financial resources. There are examples of watchdog reporting where journalists have generated great investigative stories based on sheer determination and commitment.
Gavin MacFadyen, Director of the UK-based Centre for Investigative Journalism, made the point cogently:
‘When serious investigations appear, people talk about it. Many know, driven by word of mouth. Sales rise, viewing figures climb, programmes acquire real credibility and more importantly still they achieve a loyal following. When news really affects people, they talk about it and they will follow it. This seems to be true in most countries. It also affects the culture of the press. Editors and producers become more sophisticated practitioners, or more combative, knowing how to use media law to enable rather than put the brakes on exposure, building viewers and readers by more aggressive reporting.’
Furthermore, investigative journalism helps build democracy. Reporting that never investigates beyond official releases allows those in power to set the agenda. And this type of news is made from the top down. Democratic principles, including popular participation, accountability and transparency of government, fail when media does not ask tough questions or provide information and analysis that investigates beyond the claims and counter-claims of competing factions. For the life of democracy, investigative journalism is the right thing to do.