Investigative journalism around the world

The Alfred Friendly Press Partners visited our class this week for an interesting discussion on investigative journalism in the U.S. and abroad. The class started with a presentation by Mark Horvit, the previous executive director of IRE, about the importance of investigative journalism and the impact it can have on society. He gave several great examples of investigative reporting from the past few years. He then transitioned the discussion to the obstacles investigative reporters in the U.S. face in doing their job as well as the potential dangers and barriers journalists in different countries face when doing investigative reporting.

The class was really interesting. Reporters from the Ukraine, Pakistan and India gave insight to the difficulties they face in doing their jobs. It was amazing to hear what sort of censorship, including self-censorship, journalists in countries around the world face. It was also interesting to compare the barriers to investigative reporters in other countries to the ones reporters in the U.S. face. It gave me a perspective about investigative reporting that I had not previously considered.

For one, I learned that I don’t need to be an investigative reporter to do investigative work and to stimulate positive changes to society through my work as a journalist. I also learned that I have no excuse for not doing that important work. The barriers that I would face can’t compare to barriers to investigative journalism in other parts of the world. The lecture reminded me of that and helped me realize that I can learn all the tools I would need to do investigative journalism in my career here at the MU J-School.

Sunshine Law

In lecture this week we discussed the Missouri Sunshine Law and how journalists can use it to hold public governing bodies accountable. The Sunshine Law is a pretty powerful thing – it allows journalists to request documents from public officials or groups. From a public figure, we can request emails sent on their business email, records from their travel for their work and other documents that allow journalists to ensure those people are operating in the interest of the public. It can also help to make public governing bodies more transparent to the public in what they are doing.

Having never submitted a records request before, I didn’t know how those requests can sometimes be worked around. One of our editors presented this lecture and he gave several examples of times when the newspaper’s records requests had been met with some resistance. What particularly stood out to me was how long some of these people and institutions take to produce these records. In one case, he said the total time to get the records they had requested would end up being around 11 weeks. It seems as if there are some gaps in the Missouri Sunshine Law that allow the public governing bodies to do this and subsequently make the job of a journalist harder. I’ll be interested to see what sort of records requests I end up filing and how those transpire.