Exposing the connections between the products we buy and the circumstances of their creation has proved to be fertile ground for investigative journalism. In seeking to understand the origins of our food, raw materials and manufactured goods, reporters have uncovered slavery, environmental crimes, corruption and human rights abuses. In this new GIJN resource page, we identify the investigative tools used for tracking the “supply chains” that link fields, oceans, mines and factories with the end products we buy.
The real heroes are reporters who are out there taking risks by reporting the truth, says US historian Timothy Snyder. Support them by subscribing to newspapers and reading and sharing good journalism. And next time you meet a journalist, try thanking them for their service.
As we gather for the second Asian Investigative Journalism Conference, this seems a good time to share again with our colleagues where the Global Investigative Journalism Network and its conferences come from. It was a simple idea at the end of the 20th century — to gather the world’s investigative journalists to share their knowledge with each other — that gave birth to GIJN, which has now grown to 138 member organizations in 62 countries.
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While definitions of investigative reporting vary, among professional journalism groups there is broad agreement of its major components: systematic, in-depth, and original research and reporting, often involving the unearthing of secrets. Others note that its practice often involves heavy use of public records and data, with a focus on social justice and accountability. Story-Based Inquiry, an investigative journalism handbook published by UNESCO, defines it thus: “Investigative journalism involves exposing to the public matters that are concealed–either deliberately by someone in a position of power, or accidentally, behind a chaotic mass of facts and circumstances that obscure understanding. It requires using both secret and open sources and documents.” The Dutch-Flemish investigative journalism group VVOJ defines investigative reporting simply as “critical and in-depth journalism.”
For our companion video, “What Is Investigative Journalism,” check GIJN’s YouTube channel.Some journalists, in fact, claim that all reporting is investigative reporting. There is some truth to this—investigative techniques are used widely by beat journalists on deadline as well as by “I-team” members with weeks to work on a story.
On February 15, Pakistan became one of only four countries in the world that make tax records public. The other three are Norway, Finland and Sweden. A year ago, no one would have thought this was possible. Pakistan, after all, is a cesspool of corruption and a paragon of opacity. But check the website of the Federal Bureau of Revenue and you’ll find prominently displayed there a link to the Parliamentarians’ Tax Directory. Click on the link and you’ll get a PDF that lists how much income tax each and every member of Parliament paid in 2013. On March 31, a similar listing will be made publicly available for the tax payments of all citizens. How in the world could this happen in Pakistan?
There are a lot of websites out there that can help you find hidden information. But there are also software applications and browser plug-ins that can be of use to investigative journalists. Created by up-and-coming developers and enthusiasts on a budget, many of these programmes are rather unsophisticated, so don’t expect slick interfaces and 24-hour help desks. That said, if you can get past the jargon and rough-and-ready feel, you’ll find nifty little apps that can help you discover nuggets of information which would be unavailable through conventional means.