Sunday, October 17, 2004

Kovach and Rosenstiel on responsible investigative journalism

To help you evaluate The Union's recent series on North Star - Bruce Conklin - Land Trust (See Oct 10 and Oct 7 posts), here are Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (Vice Chairman and Chairman, respectively, of the Committee of Concerned Journalists) in The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect (p. 123):
Investigative Reporting as Prosecution

Though all reporting involves investigation, what we have come to understand as investigative journalism adds a moral dimension. It engages the public to come to judgment about the disclosure and implies that the news organization considers it important - worthy of special effort. In that sense, investigative reporting involves not simply casting light on a subject, but usually making a more prosecutorial case that something is wrong. Here journalists should be careful they have enough evidence to do so, especially since often pieces can be structured as either exposes or news stories....An expose is in effect a prosecutor's brief and the case it sets forth must be unambiguous; if the story does not meet this test, it should be written as something else. important issue that arises with the investigative model: the news outlet is taking an implied stance on the issue that some wrongdoing has occurred. This is why investigative journalism has been termed..."reporting with a sense of outrage"...Because what the investigative journalism discloses may lead to loss of reputation or change the flow of public events, it carries a greater weight of responsibility, not only in verification of fact but in sharing information about the nature of the sources of that information.

It is not clear that The Union has met these standards.

For reference: the Committee of Concerned Journalists' Citizens Bill of Journalism Rights

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