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Saturday, March 26, 2022

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International Investigative Journalism: What are examples of it? How has it evolved?

In an era of the internet, social media, fake news, and newsrooms layoffs, investigative journalism is more than necessary. In-depth reporting based on verified facts is one of the solutions to combat misinformation in shallow media coverage. 

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Despite its relevance, it appears that investigative journalism is under threat since journalists have been losing their jobs due to the transformation of the media's business model. That is explained by the fact that investigative journalism takes time and is expensive to produce when compared to a regular news story. Sometimes it requires a team of journalists, photographers, videographers, editors, data scientists, and lawyers.


However, technology has been an ally and has changed media coverage, especially when it comes to international investigative journalism. Nowadays is possible to involve professionals from all over the world to report in-depth stories. As an example, I would mention The Ericsson List, an investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which counted with the collaboration of journalists from 19 countries, and had media partners from more than 20 countries.


A second example is the ICIJ’s “U.S. Aid in Latin America” investigation that inquired how anti-drug money is funneled through corrupt military, paramilitary, and intelligence organizations and violates human rights in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. And, of course, the Wikileaks case, in which its publications mobilized the media in the whole world.


Bringing it into current days, we can also observe the use of technology in how journalists covering the war in Ukraine have been using WhatsApp, Telegram, and other messaging apps to communicate, share news, and keep track of their moves for security purposes. As Joel Simon says in the article “For journalists, Ukraine is a WhatsApp war”, published on CJR, “WhatsApp and Signal groups connect colleagues in the field—and provide a level of real-time battlefield information that, a decade ago, would have been available only to a top general.” 

AI and Machine Learning

Besides connecting people and information, technology like AI has powered investigative journalism. Machine learning can analyze massive datasets in less time to identify leads, name, and predict misclassifications. Emilia Díaz-Struck, research editor and Latin American coordinator for the ICIJ, said in the article “The impact of AI and collaboration on investigative journalism” (here) that there is a lot of potential in using machine learning for journalism when dealing with vast amounts of data. “For these kinds of investigations, it would take years to manually go through and screen millions of records and make sense of them.”


Nevertheless, reporters are still required to do their work as well, such as talking to sources and cross-checking the data with public records. “Machine learning can help us find a needle in a haystack, help us be more efficient, and help journalists figure out if we are missing connections that could actually help with our reporting.” 


Regardless of using technological tools or old methods, covering national or local stories, I believe investigative journalism is essential. And it is time to reflect on the worth of original in-depth reporting and its value to a healthy democracy and informed society.

*This article was submitted as a memo assignment for the course "Current Issues of Journalism" at the University of Illinois.

About Manu Ferreira

Hi, my name is Manu Ferreira. I am multimedia producer. I hold a bachelor's degree in Social Communication - Radio, TV, and Internet, and a Master's degree in Journalism. Here, I want to share my ideas and some of the work I've done in my career.


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