The first part of this serialised chapter for the forthcoming book Investigative Journalism: Dead or Alive? looked at new business models surrounding investigative journalism. This second part looks at how new ways of gathering, producing and distributing investigative journalism are emerging online.
Online investigative journalism as a genre
Over many decades print and broadcast investigative journalism have developed their own languages: the spectacular scoop; the damning document; the reporter-goes-undercover; the doorstep confrontation, and so on. Does online investigative journalism have such a language? Not quite. Like online journalism as a whole, it is still finding its own voice. But this does not mean that it lacks its own voice.
For some the internet appears too fleeting for serious journalism. How can you do justice to a complex issue in 140 characters? How can you penetrate the fog of comment thread flame wars, or the “echo chambers” of users talking to themselves? For others, the internet offers something new: unlimited space for expansion beyond the 1,000 word article or 30-minute broadcast; a place where you might take some knowledge, at least, for granted, instead of having to start from a base of zero. A more cooperative and engaged medium where you can answer questions directly, where your former audience is now also your distributor, your sub-editor, your source.
The difference in perception is largely a result of people mistaking parts for the whole. The internet is not Twitter, or comment threads, or blogs. It is a collection of linked objects and people – in other words: all of the above, operating together, each used, ideally, to their strengths, and also, often in relationship to offline media. Continue reading