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A manual for investigative journalists

A manual for investigative journalists

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Published by Eric Prenen

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Published by: Eric Prenen on Oct 09, 2011
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his manual provides a guide to basic methods and tech-niques of investigative journalism, and it consciouslyfills a gap in the literature of the profession. Themajority of investigative manuals devote a lot of space to thesubject of where to find information. They assume that oncea reporter finds the information he or she seeks, he or she will be able to compose a viable story. We do not share that assumption. We do not think that theonly issue is finding information. Instead, we think the coretask is telling a story. That leads to the basic methodological innovation of thismanual: We use stories as the cement which holds togetherevery step of the investigative process, from conception toresearch, writing, quality control and publication. We alsocall this approach hypothesis-based inquiry, to underlinethat a story is only a hypothesis until it is verified.By verifying or disproving a story, a reporter can more easilysee which information to seek, and how to interpret it. Aneditor or publisher can more easily assess the feasibility,costs, rewards and progress of the investigative project. As research progresses, the reporter or investigative team will be organising their material for composition, and composingspecific parts of the final story. This, in turn, will facilitate
Story-Based Inquiry: A manual for investigative journalists
This project was carried out with UNESCO support. The authors are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts and opinions expressed herein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit UNESCO. Thedesignations employed and the presentation of the material throughout this book do not imply the expression of anyopinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area, or of itsauthorities or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries.graphic designer / Anne Barcat
quality control, and enable closer insight into whether thestory meets legal and ethical criteria. At the end of the process,the result will be a story that can be summed up in a fewhard-hitting sentences – a story that can be promoted andremembered. We do not claim to have invented hypothesis-based inquiry.Similar methods have been used in business consulting, thesocial sciences, and police work. What we have done is to workthrough their implications for the journalistic process, and forthe goals of investigative journalism – to reform a world thatgenerates useless, needless suffering, or conversely, that ignoresavailable solutions to its problems. This has been a long and collective project. The catalysts were
Rana Sabbagh 
 Pia Thordsen 
, who conceived and outli-ned the idea of a manual of basic investigative processes, andasked me to contribute. For me, it was the perfect moment, anda continuation of my workat the Institut français de Presse of the Université de Paris II/Panthéon-Assas, where for the pastten years I have benefited simultaneously from the company of generous and committed colleagues, and enthusiastic masters-level students. They allowed me to field-test many of themethods advocated in this manual on a scale beyond theactivities of an individual reporter.In 2001, I began what I thought would be a sabbatical at INSEAD,the global business school. A temporary research position evolvedinto an adjunct professorship, and more important, enabled meto benefit from the insights and experience of colleagues like
Yves Doz 
Ludo Van der Heyden 
Kevin Kaiser 
, and others. Their influence on this manual is indirect but powerful. Thesescholars helped me to think at a more abstract level aboutmedia practices, and to consider how processes can be improvedto create greater value, including in journalism.Like my co-authors, I was simultaneously engaged in inves-tigative reporting as a practitioner. Also in 2001, the creationof the Global Investigative Journalism Network, of which mostof us are founding members alongside drivers
Nils Mulvad 
(then with the Danish Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting)
Brant Houston 
(at the time director of InvestigativeReporters and Editors), created an extraordinary forum for theexchange of best practices. In particular, it emerged thathypothesis-based inquiry was being explored in several coun-tries simultaneously and independently – an unmistakablesign of a major development. This manual has benefited directly from the Network, not least because that’s where we found our contributors. The principalco-author of this manual,
Nils Hanson 
of Sweden, has taughtin the Network since its beginning. His name appears first onchapters where he took the lead in drafting.
Luuk Sengers 
(from Holland) discovered that hypothesis-based inquiry could be applied to project management.
Flemming Svith 
(a Dane)developed simple and robust computer tools for organisinginvestigations.
Drew Sullivan 
(an American expatriate in theBalkans) codified reporting practices on organised crime thatcan be applied to many other situations. Most important,perhaps, positive feedback and criticism from participants inthe Network’s bi-annual congresses confirmed that there wasa need and a desire for the material in this manual. The process of collective development was powerfully reinforced by the creation of the Centre for Investigative Journalism of London and its annual Summer School. Over several years,founder
Gavin McFadyen 
and his team allowed us to explore new ways to teach the process of finding and composing stories.Finally, ARIJ’s seminars in Arabia provided the opportunity totest the presentation of the ideas in this book as it was beingcomposed, in a trans-cultural context. This process, like ARIJitself, was funded by International Media Support and theDanish Parliament.Investigative journalism is a profession, and a skill set.It is alsoa family. I grew up in that family, and have watched it grow. This manual is your door into the family. Please become amember we can honor and admire, for your professionalism,ethics and engagement.Mark Lee Hunter
Editor and principal authorParis – Aarhüs – Amman – London – Lillehammer

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