Investigative Journalism: Definition & Examples

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Journalism has many branches, including investigative journalism. In this lesson, we learn the ins and outs of this intense form of journalism, while examining several examples.

What Is Investigative Journalism?

Imagine spending two years working as an executive assistant for a CEO to determine if corruption is brewing in the company. That's what an investigative journalist might do if they felt it was the right thing.

Investigative journalists dig deep and they work to expose the underbellies of crimes, corruption, and more. Let's dive deep into the topic of investigative journalism, and learn about its scope through some examples.

Investigative journalism is a type of journalism that uncovers what others don't want uncovered. Investigative journalism is also called watchdog journalism. An investigative journalist digs deep into one story, whether it be corporate financial corruption, violent crime, or other topics that might not get covered in everyday news.

One of the main goals of investigative journalism is to spur change. An investigative journalist might spend four years following a politician and uncovering a money laundering crime to protect the people from electing a criminal.

Then again, simpler forms of investigative journalism provide citizens with news stories via television networks and newspapers, but isn't the everyday sort of news. It may be a local grocery story that is prejudiced toward hiring the elderly or a school failing to support students with special needs.

Underneath the umbrella term of investigative journalism is interpretive reporting, which is a type of investigative journalism that evaluates the consequences of certain events or actions.

Keep in mind, however, that investigative journalism is not leak journalism, which is when a reporter releases sensitive documents to the public without any further research into the documents.

Investigative Journalism Resources

Investigative journalists use a variety of resources to learn more about the topic they are investigating. Reporters will use information from interviews, public records, legal and tax reports, and other federal resources.

Journalists use standard undercover work when there isn't enough information in databases or when sources aren't willing to come forward. Usually a combination of these different methods is used to build a strong case.

It's important to note that an investigative reporter doesn't acquire sensitive material just to publish it. Instead, they use the information to write and publish a coherent and fact-based article or book.

Investigative Journalism Examples

Investigative journalism takes on all sorts of topics. Let's look at few true-life examples of investigative journalism.

In 2017, journalist Eric Eyre won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his report on opioid overdoses in West Virginia. Over a series of three reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in 2016, he demonstrated how the pills were getting into the state and causing so many deaths. It turned out that pharmaceutical companies were providing far too many pills to pharmacies in the poorest counties of West Virginia, which led to a vicious cycle of pill usage and deaths.

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