investigative journalism

Formative: 5 Things

  • 1. When I conducted my secondary research, I encountered several challenges.
  • Firstly, I began to question if I had made the right choice regarding my story topic. As my topic is relevant in media currently, there was plenty of general articles to do with it. However, I couldn’t quite find enough information regarding the more specific elements I wanted to cover. After investing more time into my research, I found articles of great use to me.
  • Secondly, a challenge I encountered was making sure I was getting my secondary research from a reliable news source. I did this by using trusted newspapers (e.g. The Guardian, The Independent) when researching articles, or recognized sites to provide statistics (e.g. CSO, HSE).
  • The third challenge was making sure the secondary research I collected stayed relevant to the topics I wanted to cover in my piece. This meant I had to stay focused when working, making sure everything tied in together.

2. Three things the contact sheet and contacting progress have taught me:

  • How to formally contact people you’re interested in speaking to, maintaining a balance between being polite but not dull with your language. As well as something to help you with contacts, this is also a valuable life skill to possess.
  • People are willing to help you with your work, even if you don’t expect a response or get one straight away. Contacting people with a broad understanding of your topic tends to flow the best, as you can ask them a set amount of questions without them struggling to speak on it. Journalist’s tend to be eager to help aspiring journalists, so these are a safe bet to contact.
  • Structuring a clear contact sheet is useful when it comes to being organized. Being able to see all your contacts details (such as their name, location and phone number/email) makes the process of getting in touch more efficient.

3. I don’t think it’s possible to research efficiently using only secondary research. Taking information from other people’s work can only teach you so much – talking to people directly about it is what helps you truly learn and understand your topic. However, secondary research also has a lot to it, and can be a great help while looking for information on your piece.

4. If a contact provides me with information that shows a person or organization in a bad light, I work around mentioning their name(s) so not to upset them. If I decided I wanted to name them anyway, this could land me in trouble with defamation. Defamation is oral or written communication that harms the reputation of a person or company, and making such a statement could backfire more than it’s worth. It’s safer to indirectly describe the type of person or company, but you must be careful that you don’t get into specifics where they can be easily identified.

5. Jim Lehrer’s rules that apply to my work

2. Do not distort, lie, slant or hype.

This rule is relevant to when you collect research. It’s important that you use verified information when adding to your piece, and tell the facts as they are. You should not twist or make up any information to make your piece seem “better”. Spreading disinformation will make your work less credible, and contacts will hesitate to work with you in the future if you are known for doing this.

10. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label them as such.

This is relevant to my topic, as there is plenty of opinion surrounding Covid-19 and young people. One of the reasons I chose to write about this was to separate fact from opinion, as the media can get this blurred frequently. Between conspiracy theories and general speculation, people have a lot to say about this subject, so it’s important for me to be able to differentiate between the two, and clearly state as such.

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