Monday 16 June 2008

New form of collaborative Investigative Journalism goes missing at IJ Conference

Last Friday, I went to an Investigative Journalism conference at the University of Westminster in London. There were some big names - John Pilger, Nick Davies, David Leigh to name a few - but there was little recognition of the potential role that bloggers could play in investigative journalism in the future.

With the exception of Paul Bradshaw, (who did manage to talk about using bloggers to do some IJ), Gavin McFayden at the Centre of Investigative Journalism and the occasional mention of 'citizen journalism' by some of the other pannelists, there wasn't much evidence that many people really understood blogs or had any idea how bloggers might contribute to investigative journalism.

The idea of a new investigative journalism based on a collaborative process between a network of journalists, experts, interested parties, bloggers, and individual members of the public was barely discussed, and certainly not considered in any depth.

There was a rather nostalgic, dare I say, backward-looking feel to the whole conference. The overall impression was that the golden age of investigative journalism in the UK had passed (with the end of World in Action), and that mainstream media organisations must battle on with whatever resources they can muster from the wreckage of a broken business model.

Admittedly, there aren't many stand out examples of successful investigative journalism by bloggers or citizen journalists in the UK. But we could have considered Guido Fawkes breaking political stories, the work (scroll down) of Graham Knight to expose the flaws in the Nimrod aircraft, and campaigns for an inquiry into 7/7 just to get us going.

Then there's the evidence from the US: Dan Rather, The New Republic being undone by the collaboration of the military blogosphere and the mainstream media, lawyers' blogs driving investigative journalism etc.

Other things that were hardly mentioned or not at all include journalists using bloggers to trawl through document dumps, crowdsourcing and Ohmynews in South Korea, which uses citizen reporters as a matter of course.

So there's plenty of exciting new developments in investigative journalism - but you wouldn't have heard about them at this conference. The omission of serious discussion on the future was particularly evident in the final debate: 'IJ today is dross by another name', where both proposers and opposers could have discussed 'citizen journalism' and blogging in relation to investigative journalism. But didn't.

An afterthought: In one panel there was a frankly pointless non-argument about whether journalists are investigating the number of casualties in Iraq. No one seemed to know anything about this. Which was interesting because if you follow a few blogs you'd know that there's a UK website that tracks the number of reported casualties. You'd also know that various bloggers, and mainstream journalists had taken the Lancet report to task, that The Guardian had written an article about this as well in May, and that this has been hotly debated in the Iraqi blogosphere.


Paul Bradshaw said...

The good thing about hearing others' perspective means it highlights your own shortsightedness. As a result of that conference I've significantly refined my 'Citizen Investigation' project idea.
By the way, also disappointed not to hear from a single regional investigative journalist.

Anonymous said...


Are you aware of Postman Patel.

He has a current blog post about how the Westminster machine (was) hoodwinked by the David Davis fiasco.

The political pantomine was played along whilst the VERY important proposed legislative changes comprising the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill & the 3 order amendments to the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Bill ('42-days pre-charge detention', 'secret inquests' & 'special coroners') were barely commented upon by the MSM or the blogsphere.

Have you any aspiring Media Studies students that are in need of a nice summertime job? (See the PS at the bottom of Postman Patel's blog post).

The lack of ANY investigative journalists is very noticeable, but thank you for your efforts.

Post a Comment


Copyright 2009 Mediating Conflict. Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan