‘Investigative comment’ for web reporting…

12Nov10

When the winner of the Bevins Prize for Investigative Journalism was announced earlier this week, I doubt few could have argued that Clare Sambrook was an undeserving recipient, especially after receiving the Paul Foot award a week earlier. Her work with End Child Detention Now, alongside her group of volunteers, is clearly thought to be this year’s outstanding case of investigative journalism.

The list of reports credited with both awards were written for web publication Opendemocracy. It is definitely of note that this is the first time an all web publication has won either award, showing the shift in practice and publication of investigative journalism. Amongst the fears  of the clarity and quality of content on the web, it is nice to see organisations and individuals embracing the opportunities this platform allows.

The important concept to take from her work is that of ‘investigative comment’; itis something that has the potential to change journalistic practice when it comes to investigations, especially on the web.

Her original and innovative take on journalism is something that has been lacking in recent years; Anthony Barnett on Ourkingdom, a sub-section of Opendemocracy, wrote on her method and mentioned the fact and comment should no longer be separated.

She tells us that “If we respect the reader, then all journalism ought to be investigative — probing, curious, digging”, examining and asking questions and forcing the reader to think, react and respond. Despite the articles mentioning, with quite a sharp tongue, the vested interests of various media organisations lending itself to bland neutrality, when in fact, “it’s bonkers to demand that investigative work should be ‘fair and balanced”.

Despite a journalist needing to have that basic human lust for knowledge in bundles, we don’t really understand or appreciate that in order to go out and search for information and sources, we need to feel passionate about the reasons why we are trying to tell people the story and why we are out searching for the information.

This passion will appeal to people, and only recently has the web allowed us to input this kind of openness and opinion into news reporting as part of a complete news story, entailing fact, report and subjective response.

Arguments should not have to be presented subjectively, and controversial subjects or topics, like child detention centres, deserve an element of passion and opinion in their reporting, as long as you are honest with the facts, allow for open interpretation and discussion of the material you are distributing and bring something new to the public sphere.

If there is anything to take from the successes of Clare and the End Child Detention Now campaign, it is that her reporting style, utilising ‘investigative comment’, led to the distribution of a powerful and controversial story in an award-winning and thought provoking way to a discursive and receptive audience. Not something to be taken lightly.

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