Investigative Journalism

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Investigative Journalism is the process of searching for, analysing, and a reporting on issues that are otherwise difficult to get information on. Investigative journalism uses things like Freedom of Information requests (FOI), database searching, and reading through large numbers of public documents, such as company reports, environmental impact assessment. Investigative journalism can also benefit from leaked materials.

Investigative Journalism is often a good way of exposing corruption. A key process is mapping the relationships between your target(s), so that you can best guess where to look, and what to look for. An good example of mapping is http://www.exxonsecrets.org

General tools for investigative journalism

Major tools for investigative journalism include FOI requests, which change depending on which country they are conducted in. Some jurisdictions also provide lobbying databases.

Database searches are vital, although the researcher will often need to know beforehand what they are searching for. Some databases that are worth looking through are some times more obvious than one might think. In particular, major web search engines, like google, can reveal some surprising results. Social networks, like facebook and linkedin can also provide some details, if your targets have open privacy settings.

The Center for Investigative Reporting has a very useful guide to basic investigative journalism, as well as a bunch of other tools at http://centerforinvestigativereporting.org/tools

Web strategies

If you're investigating a particular group with a website, especially one that doesn't divulge it's financing, it can be quite informative to check background information on the domain and server. To do this, check the domain in a whois database, such as http://www.whois.net/. The whois will often tell you who owns the domain, although this information can be hidden. Even if no information is directly available you can see the nameservers, and possibly the server IPs that the domain points to. You can then do a reverse IP lookup with a tool like http://www.domaintools.com/research/reverse-ip/, which will show you who else has their information on the same server (often indicating a financial relationship that could be investigated more closely.

Other General resources

  • the WayBackMachine: http://www.archive.org.au
  • SourceWatch.org - that's what it's here for!
  • Stock exchanges in your country probably list a lot of information on public companies, such as board members.

Investigative reporting by country

Australia

Most states in Australia have some kind of political transparency mechanisms available to citizens. In particular, FOI legislation is common (often with a searching fee, depending on the request), and some states have have lobbyist registers and political donation registers. The Environmental Defender's Office provides some information on how to conduct FOI requests at http://www.edo.org.au/edonsw/site/factsh/fs09_2.php.

Members of some parliaments in Australia are often required to declare donations over a particular amount.

It's always worth seeing if your local government has any such registries as well.

Lobbyist registries

Donations registries

See Also