It is glamorous.

There is a reason the people on the cover of ‘All the President’s Men’ are not the Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but the actors who played them, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. So wake up! Reality shows that investigative journalism is hard, humdrum and sometimes dangerous.

Journalists are bigger than the stories they report.

Investigative journalism is a public service, not an ego trip. Being an investigative journalist does not give you a right to flout professional ethical standards.

The investigative journalist is lone ranger.

When making a film, it is easier to have only one hero to build a narrative arc around. In reality, investigative journalism is not sustainable unless it is a team effort.

Investigative journalism is mainly driven by the private media.

This is partially true. But there are also well-known examples where state-owned media outlets have undertaken ground-breaking investigations against the government.

Investigative journalism focuses only on bad news.

The priority for communities and the media outlets that serve them is to discover and correct wrongs. But investigative journalism also has a role in uncovering positive news. For example, counteracting unbalanced, negative images of people or communities could form the basis of real and good investigative stories. Simple scandal-mongering, also known as muck-racking, rarely has any purpose beyond indulging a nosiness about the private lives of others. To be worth investigating, a scandal must go beyond personal misbehaviour to delve into issues that truly affect the public interest.

Investigative reporting is simply good reporting.

This ‘myth’ arises from the traditional view of journalists as ‘watchdogs’, whose mission is to sniff out wrongs, point fingers at those to blame, and offer ways to bring about change. Unearthing the corrupt individuals in the hope that they are stopped is certainly important. But if an investigative report stops there, and fails to examine the faulty system that allows such behaviour to persist, then it has merely cleared the ground for a new crop of crooks to do the same thing. A good investigative story needs to identify underlying problems and alert those who can close exposed loopholes. If those in power fail to do so, a follow-up story is needed to find out why.

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