Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.
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Chapter 1 – About investigative reporting

Writing a history or complete account of African investigative journalism is outside the scope of this project. But we offer here a series of contributions – some current, some historical – on the topic, that will, hopefully, lay the foundations for further research, and also lay to rest decisively the myth that journalism which exposes social problems and criticizes the powerful is ‘un-African’.

We can define investigative journalism as:

  • An original, proactive process that digs deeply into an issue or topic of public interest
  • Producing new information or putting known information together to produce new insights
  • Multi-sourced, using more resources and demanding team-working and time
  • Revealing secrets or uncovering issues surrounded by silence
  • Looking beyond individuals at fault to the systems and processes that allow abuses to happen
  • Bearing witness, and investigating ideas as well as facts and events
  • Providing nuanced context and explaining not only what, but why
  • Not always about bad news, and not necessarily requiring undercover techniques – though it often is, and sometimes does.

An investigative reporter needs to have:

  • Curiosity
  • Passion
  • Initiative
  • Logical thinking, organisation and self-discipline
  • Flexibility
  • Good teamworking and communication skills
  • Well-developed reporting skills
  • Broad general knowledge and good research skills
  • Determination and patience
  • Fairness and strong ethics
  • Discretion
  • Citizenship
  • Courage

And finally

Finally, we have noted that though there are shared goals and common standards, there isn’t one, universal model for investigative reporting, and that to get the most out of studying case studies of other investigations, you need to think carefully about the similarities or differences in context between the case study and your own situation as a reporter.

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