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2013

Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne Christoph Schattleitner Classic Journalism, Classic Journalists

[DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INVESTIGATIVE AND ROUTINE JOURNALISM]


Journalism offers a broad field of profession. You cannot only separate between topics, resorts and its quality (tabloid, broadsheet), but also various types of journalism. Investigative journalism is often seen as the supreme discipline, because it is probably the most dangerous and effortful. This essay will explore the main differences between investigative and the routine journalism and will explain why both types are essential for a democracy by showing two examples.

Journalism offers a broad field of profession. You cannot only separate between topics, resorts and its quality (tabloid, broadsheet), but also various types of journalism. Investigative journalism is often seen as the supreme discipline, because it is probably the most dangerous and effortful. Nevertheless this essay will explain why both types are essential for a democracy and explore the main differences between investigative and routine journalism by showing two examples.

Table of Contents
Routine journalism Investigative journalism Can routine journalism be investigative? Example 1: Answering a question by not answering a question Example 2: When breaking the law is the only way Conclusion and the difference of investigative and daily journalism Bibliography 1 2 2 3 3 4 4

Routine journalism
Defining routine journalism is easy, achieving it is a challenge: Journalisms purpose is to inform citizens. In a democracy we are the ones in power and decide. For doing this we need truly and independent researched information. Or how BBC News Head James Harding (2013) puts it: People are depending on clear information and the opportunity to question those in control. The BBC *or any other media is able to do so] is providing this democratic function. The German sociologist Jrgen Habeas invented the often-cited public sphere model of what classic journalism is and should do. From this perspective, media should prepare citizens to participate in public life by serving information which is in the public interest. (Croteau and Hoynes 2006) Or how Dorothy Byrne who went as a student to West Africa put it: There are really important things in the world that people must know about, and if you dont tell them about them then they wont know and they wont be able to do anything about them. (De Burg 2008, pp. 19) Ideally, you do not have to break the law or have to do a lot of research to find out such important things. That is what mainly daily journalism does: Collecting and editing information and presenting it through media to inform people. Investigative journalism goes beyond.

Investigative journalism
What if there are pieces of information which are in the public interest, but not easily or not at all accessible? Here is where investigative journalism begins to operate. The Oxford dictionary defines investigative as following: Carry out a systematic or formal inquiry to discover and examine the facts of (an incident, allegation, etc.) so as to establish the truth: If investigating means to discovering the facts to establish the truth, does that mean that routine journalism is not doing that? Of course not. Unfortunately it is hard to define the difference by what the two types are doing, it is more about how much effort and time they put in to do so: According to Editor in chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger all journalism is investigative to a greater or lesser extent, but investigative journalism - though it is a bit of a tautology- is that because it requires more, its where the investigative element is more pronounced. (De Burg 2008, pp. 17) The border between routine and investigative journalism is vague. Journalist Jonathan Calvert explains that trenchantly: Some stories you make five calls on, some twenty. When you are making a hundred, thats investigative journalism. A journalist recognises to become investigative when you realise people are lying to you *+, then you have to find different ways of getting hold of the information and it can take longer. In fact, investigative journalism is leaking injustices, which also means an allegation against someone or a group. As a serious medium you have to be very careful, because in allegations against people evidence really matters. (De Burg 2008, pp. 17)

Can routine journalism be investigative?


Yes, of course. And it should be. Carl Bernstein, who revealed the famous Watergate in 1972, has repeatedly said that all good reporting is investigative. (Shepard 2012) Every journalist is seeking to find out the truth of a story. According to the Elements of Journalism (Kovach and Rosenstiel 2001, pp. 10) their first obligation is to tell the truth. In daily journalism there is often not enough time for being absolutely sure. The only thing journalists can do is to show both sides of a story; being balanced and objective in their method. But in fact, they cannot prove if it is true or not. That does not have to be a bad thing, because society also needs daily information and journalism, not only investigators. Often that is about information nobody wants or cannot hide, like facts that Mandela died on the 5ht of December 2013. We also need to understand that journalism can fulfil important tasks even though it is not giving answers.

Example 1: Answering a question by not answering a question


BBC newsnight Anchor-man Jeremy Packman is famous because of his interviews. Most controversial was his interview of Michael Howard whom he asked unbelievably 16 times (!) the same question: Did you threaten to overrule him? Howard did not answer the simple yes or no question, which does not mean the audience did not gain knowledge trough this interview. It saw a man preferring not to answer an easy question, but trying to escape from the probably inconvenient situation. Daily journalism (the newsnight is shown every weekday) did in this case not investigate something by giving answers, but it gave the viewer a deeper insight. Howard was not willing to tell the truth, so longer and deeper investigative research would have to be done to find out.

Example 2: When breaking the law is the only way


Are journalists allowed to break the law? To film and record sneaky? Yes, they are in some aspects. Namely if it is the only way to find out the truth, which is in the public interest. The German investigative journalist Gnter Wallraff for example broke the law when he wrote his bestseller lead story (Der Aufmacher) in 1970. He worked for the BILD-Zeitung (similar to the Sun in England) in Germany to find out how they work. He revealed that the paper is lying and making stories up regularly. He not only cheated the BILD, but also broke their company and desk secret. As a result BILD sued him and they fought in court over several years. This example shows that investigating something is only possible in illegal ways. That BILD is making up stories is clearly in the public interest, but Wallraff was only to prove it by working there and revealing how they work. You can say that investigative journalists are putting the ideal truth about all others even the law. There are various, famous and historical example, but I want to mention a recent one. Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee, (plus the Guardian and the Washington Post) revealed how the US National Security Agency is spying out nearly every one of us. Snowden is therefor accused a bit ironically for spying and has to defend himself in court, if he would be present in the USA. What Snowden and his journalistic helpmates did was highly investigative, that shows especially Edward Snowden in his public letter, in which he says: Speaking the truth is not a crime. (Snowden 2013)

Conclusion and the difference of investigative and daily journalism


Although the border between investigative and routine journalism is vague, this essay showed two major differences. Firstly, it is the time and effort they spend on a topic. Secret information is not unreasonable secret; it is because somebody wants to hide it from the public. Revealing it needs time, skills, and courage in order to not assault someone falsely. That can last for days, weeks but also for months or even years until you find out the truth. Routine journalists are depending on deadlines; therefore they cannot afford weeklong research. The second difference this essay explored was the risk journalists are willing to go. Investigative journalists are not only watchdogs, but also the ones who fight for the truth, which of course is not pleasing everyone. They are taking risks to serve the public interest in truly information. Therefor the can get accused, imprisoned or even killed. According to the yearly report of Reporters without Borders 66 journalists got killed and 189 got imprisoned in 2013. (Reporters without Borders 2013) In my view both - investigative and daily journalism - are important for society. Journalists are providing information, which are in the public interest. The difference between investigative and routine journalists is only how much time and risk can or will I afford to find out the truth. 1519 words.

Bibliography
Harding, J. (2013) James Harding speech to staff in BBC News and Current Affairs on 4
December 2013. London: BBC. Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/speeches/2013/james-harding.html

Kovach, B. and Rosenstiel, T. (2001) Journalisms first obligation is to tell the truth, Elements of Journalism, 55:2, pp. 10 Oxford Dictionaries (2013) Definition of investigate. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/investigate?q=investigate Reporters without Borders (2013) Press freedom barometer 2013. http://en.rsf.org/pressfreedom-barometer-journalists-killed.html?annee=2013 Shepard, A. (2012) Investigative Reporting Is Now Endangered. New York: The New York Times. Online: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/06/13/did-any-good-comeof-watergate/the-journalism-watergate-inspired-is-endangered-now Snowden, E. (2013) Speaking the truth is not a crime. London: The Guardian. Online: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/01/nsa-files-edward-snowdens-letter-toangela-merkel-live-coverage