GIJC continues – ABC of investigative journalism

I continue with some more notes from the GIJC conference. Here are my first notes.

Nils Hansson from Uppdrag granskning (Sweden’s SVT) had an very systematic approach to investigative journalism.  In his presentation, called “The ABC of investigative journalism”, he bombarded us with do’s and don’ts, I’ve picked out those I liked best.

First, there are three points investigative journalists should follow:

  1. Adopt tough challenges
  2. Prove wrong-doing
  3. Investigate ourselves

In order to uncover a brilliant story, investigative journalists need brilliant ideas. But how do you come up withe those earthshaking ideas?

  • – Try to think as a corrupt person (an advice Nilsson got from a colleague)!
  • – Ask yourself these questions: what opportunities exist to profit from the system?
  • – what problem is the biggest for your readers/listeners/viewers?
  • -which problem is the most neglected?
  • -which problem is the most upsetting?

Very important: Confront your idea, don’t treat it like a baby!
When “selling” the idea to the editor, Nilsson requires that every journalist fills out this checklist:

  • -title
  • -summary (max 10 lines)
  • -previously published
  • -minimum (good enough to publish)
  • -maximum (what you hope to achieve, but cannot promise)

He also suggested to do the key interview (the bad guy) as early as possible, in other words, confront the person who is responsible early. The advantage:

  • -Avoids unpleasant surprises (while working on a large case, it is easy to get the tunnel vision).
  • -Gives time to examine the explanation.
  • -Easier to get the lie on record/tape.

In order to prove the wrongdoing, ex of old meat packaged as fresh, ICA-case, you need to know the system, the routines, key players, process – and develop a method for uncovering the wrongdoing. The next step is to get the documents, also classified, and get the sources to talk (check the source, compare info from several sources, can the info be confirmed, etc, and protect the source – careful with phone, email, meet at safe places).

In SVT’s Uppdrag granskning (the investigative program), they do something called  Line-by-line editing. That implies:

  • -check all facts (names, figures, quotes)
  • -verification through documents
  • -are all conclusions well founded?

By checking and rechecking the story this way, they often find that they can sharpen the story even more.

Another important part is to let the source respond to the criticism.
He ended by giving us a very general advice – be patient!

I like that SVT have published their ABC for investigative journalists on their website. That is transparency, I wished more newsrooms could do the same.

Does anyone have notes from the meeting “10 best website for investigative journalists”?

One thought on “GIJC continues – ABC of investigative journalism

  1. As a non-journalist I am most impressed to read about ethical values in the training of professionaly jouralists – thankyou for your clear points which are very pertinent for many disciplines

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