The Survival of Investigative Journalism

Investigative journalism has always played a role as truth-tellers in societies; unraveling corruption, fraud and other types of issues within the government and institutions, in order to inform the public the truth (investigativereporting.org.uk, 2015).However, with the emergence of the internet, many question the survival of this type of journalism, as the public can easily access information on the net, as well as taking the role of a citizen journalist and contribute information to the public.

As news organisations have shifted to the online medium, print newsrooms were greatly affected and were forced to reduce their size and operations.  Due to the poor economy, newsrooms are operating on only a small number of staff and money and are unable to afford the costly services of a highly trained and experienced investigative reporters (Fisher, 2013).

Although it may seem as if the internet is the cause of investigative journalism’s downfall, it actually is able to provide new methods for this type of journalism such as including multimedia formats. If a journalist is able to adapt to the technology trends and use online videos and photos as an advantage to tell complex investigative news stories to online audiences, investigative journalism will definitely survive.

One of the reasons as to why investigative journalism are not able to thrive in Malaysia however, is largely due to the restriction from the law. Journalists here do not have the privilege of freedom of speech such as in the United States, and any controversial findings will always be banned or questioned by the courts.

But with the emergence of the internet, investigative journalism has slowly been practiced in Malaysia, which can be seen in the leaked information of the 1MDB case. In an article written in the Malaysian Insider (2015), David Kaplan, who heads the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), said attempts to clampdown on the media were useless as people would always turn to the internet.

References:

Fisher, J. (2013). Jim Fisher True Crime. [online] Jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.my. Available at: http://Jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.my [Accessed 1 Nov. 2015].

investigativereporting.org.uk, (2015). Can investigative journalism survive? – investigativereporting.org.uk. [online] Available at: http://investigativereporting.org.uk/can-investigative-journalism-survive/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2015].

JRN3001 The Survival of Investigative Journalism: study book, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba.

Shukri, A. (2015). It’s the digital age, award-winning US journalist tells Najib over media blockage – The Malaysian Insider. [online] Themalaysianinsider.com. Available at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/its-the-digital-age-award-winning-us-journalist-tells-najib-over-media-bloc [Accessed 1 Nov. 2015].

Advertisements

Issues in Reporting for a Global Audience

While many historians are still debating over the beginning of globalisation, many agree that the internet, has made the most significant impact in the field of information and communication technology in the past decade. Due to this factor, many local news websites are contemplating to globalise their news, in hope that this move will widen their target audience.

Expanding news may seem like the logical approach; more news would equate to more readers, but unfortunately this logic does not apply here, as there are several issues in globalising local news websites. Although globalisation is known to erase geographical barriers, language barriers are still one of the issues in writing international news. Due to difference in culture, some countries may use slangs that others may not, thus increasing the possibility of misinterpreting meanings which derails the actual content of the news story.

Though journalists are not supposed to be biased when writing a story, the fact of the matter is that they are still humans with their own beliefs and perception towards an issue, especially when it comes to controversial matters. Even though they try their best to keep the story neutral, they might subconsciously be influenced by their own perception, thus producing biased news.

Wilkinson in Principles of Convergent Journalism believes that some of the most effective storytelling may use no words at all, which is why news organisations use citizen journalism from other countries as one of their sources to report on international news. However, ethical challenges might arise from this method as a journalist must always attribute user-generated sources and sometimes money would be involved in order to attain this information.

Wilkinson, JS, Grant, AE & Fisher, DJ 2013, Principles of convergent journalism, 2nd end, Oxford UP, New York, US.

JRN3001 Online News: study book, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba.

Making stories relevant to online audiences

Audiences react to the news differently nowadays compared to the era of news in print media. During those days, most of the readers happily accept the news stories that they read, however when news started to be present in the borderless platform of the internet, audience are becoming more smart when it comes to judging a news story which includes their curiosity to know the processes of news gathering. A good way to do this is by backpack journalism which differs from the type of journalism that we all know it to be. According to Bill Gentile, backpacking journalism defined as the craft of one properly trained professional using a hand-held digital camera to tell visual stories in a more immediate and intimate fashion. The journalist has to construct a news piece all on his/her own which includes reporting, photographing editing and uploading the story to the audiences, which gives a more honest perspective of a story from a person’s perspective rather than being produced by a team. The audiences will be able to see how a journalist got their stories and photographs or why they chose to portray the story in a certain angle and will feel a direct connection to the story and they are also able to check the credibility of a story or journalist based on the process that they see. Here is a video of Bill Gentile explaining further on backpack journalism.

In order to make stories relevant to audiences, a journalist has to be accountable in every aspect of the news gathering process to prove their credibility and gain trust from their audiences. Unfortunately some news organisations fail to do this such as the Australian television Channel 9, where the team faked a live report stream which was met a backlash from their audiences. When something like this happens, the journalists and the entire news organisation will lose accountability, respectability and credibility.

Social media is the best tool to engage with the audience as they can be in a two-way-communication with the news organisations themselves which is why news organisations utilise the user-generated content concept which includes the audience as a participant in the newsgathering process such as providing visual or audio materials to the news organisations. Many of the raw footage that news organisations use are from the audience such al-Jazeera which included an amateur footage from social media in the recent news of hajj stampedes in Mecca.

mecca

References:

Module 4 2015, ‘Interviewing and information gathering’, University of Southern Queensland,

http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/191825/5-ways-to-better-engage-with-your-audience-in-person-and-online/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qmLZuF3rQw

What constitutes a credible source?

News are easily available online, not only on their official sites but also circulating all across the internet. Although this gives the readers an alternative on current issues, more news content nowadays are misconstrued or just simply a hoax. This may be due to the fact that most online writers don’t have proper training as a journalist but this also doesn’t mean that big news companies always report accurate news. On June 2015, news channel BBC has misinformed about the “death” of Queen Elizabeth via their official twitter account.

BBC

This example just shows that the element which holds the utmost importance is actually the accountability of the journalist as it comprises of being factual, using correct attribution and ensure that the sources of their news stories are credible and relevant.

A big part of credibility in journalism comes from interviews conducted; without interviews, journalism does not exist because journalists are able to get their information straight from the source itself and will be able to use direct quotations to verify the credibility of a source especially if it comes from an authoritative figure.

However, to merely conduct an interview isn’t enough; take for example the “chk-chk-boom” interview where the eyewitness made false claims regarding a shootout on Australia’s Channel 9.

girl
The “chk-chk-boom” girl who reported false claims

It is imperative that journalists use their interviewing skills to determine if an interviewee is being honest because should they report a false claim, it will spread amongst the public like wild fire and will eventually cause conflict.

Raw footages are used as a support to ensure credibility as these videos are not edited so that the public can understand more about a story using visual and audio. This is especially useful when a journalist is reporting natural disasters to capture the degree of the catastrophic event and inform to the public along with the news story itself. During the 2011 Japan tsunami various news media online reported the incident along with raw footages such as CBS news.

japan tsunami

At the end of the day, journalists hold a huge responsibility to cater to the public and has to keep in mind to always maintain the elements of accountability to ensure accurate and quality news.

References:

Coatney, C 2015, ‘Week 5: What constitutes a credible source?’, University of Southern Queensland.

Module 4 2015, ‘Interviewing and information gathering’, University of Southern Queensland.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/queen-elizabeth-death-rumor-spread-after-bbc-tweet-blunder-n368951

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/japan-earthquake-tsunami-kill-hundreds/

http://www.theage.com.au/news/technology/web/chk-chk-boom-girl-exposed-as-a-fake/2009/05/23/1242498978492.html

Key factors affecting the preparation and delivery of online news

The demand for news is increasing because of the emergence of internet and journalist must be quick to cater to this. In the days before the internet journalists had a daily deadline, however news today are often updated by the minute, which means that journalist essentially have no fixed deadline. This is one of the most prominent factor which affects the preparation and delivery of news online. Lieb (2010) explains that the day of the deadline has passed, and that daily or hourly cycle we are used to working within no longer exists.

OJ pic

Bersih rally in Malaysia which happened just today was constantly updated on news websites such as The Star.

The internet relies heavily on visuals and audio, so journalists nowadays have no choice but to understand these mechanisms to identify which method or medium would be best to accompany their story. According to the Poynter Institute, the most important thing to consider when publishing online is the homepage layout and found that the eyes most often move first in the upper left of the page, stays at the area for a moment and then going left to right. Other than that, other elements such as font sizes, blurbs, and the usage of multimedia also affects the readers. Multimedia elements such as pictures, videos and audios are used in news websites to attract readers and also promote interactivity.

OJ 2

The Star online even has a section specifically for videos.

OJ 3

Malay Mail online uses pictures to visually attract the readers.

It is undeniable, journalists face more challenges nowadays and have to adapt to the ever changing world of the internet. However, through these challenges, journalists can learn and grow to better provide the public with information using new methods to the best of their capabilities.

References:

Lieb, T 2011, All the news; writing and reporting for the convergent media, Pearson Education Inc, New York US.

http://www.poynter.org/uncategorized/24963/eyetrack-iii-what-news-websites-look-like-through-readers-eyes/

What defines news in an online environment?

In print media, “today’s story is tomorrow’s news,” but when it comes to online news, “today’s story is today’s news.” In this fast paced world, there is a constant need for speed and online news has provided just that.

The web offers print news organizations, journalists, editors and news producers a platform for print, sound and vision in a single medium (Lamble, 2011). The usage of multimedia will spark more interest among readers, circulating them within the realm of social media, which creates a two-way communication.

In order to cater to readers’ short attention span, Kiss (2003) has stated three key principles when writing online: usage of language, technical consideration and graphic layouts (as cited in Lamble, 2011). Journalists nowadays are expected to be tech-savvy and aware of the platform’s mechanics to maximize the potential readership.

News – be it print or online – follow the same news values and ethics, but do citizen journalists take into account these rules when writing their piece?

The above video explains on ethics in online journalism

Sure, we’d like to believe that all journalists adhere to these rules closely, but unfortunately the gates of online journalism are constantly flooded by unfiltered waves of information; and herein lies the question of credibility.

Facebook for instance, was bombarded with various information about the recent MH370 news. Some news sources had confirm the missing planes remnants, some had said the opposite and in between that, there were circulating theories regarding the topic.

oj pic oj 2

Example of two news sources with different information

The emergence of online journalism has taught us to not only rely on a journalists’ independence, accuracy and viability but to be independent enough to make our own judgement of accuracy and viability.

References:

Book:

Lamble, Stephen. News As It Happens. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Website:

CNBC,. ‘Families Question Malaysia’s MH370 Evidence’. N.p., 2015. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.

Thestar.com.my,. ‘Aircraft Debris Confirmed To Be From MH370 – Nation | The Star Online’. N.p., 2015. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.

YouTube,. ‘Dean Wright On Online Journalism Ethics’. N.p., 2015. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.