28 May 2015

We help you to investigate


nl  de Many journalists dream of going further into a subject. But they and their organisations worry that the process is too complicated, time-consuming or costly. We can fix that. Story-Based Inquiry is an efficient investigative method based on field-tested techniques. It helps journalists and other professionals to conceive, plan and present their findings in powerful stories. Read more

We do more than teach

LuukHome-150x150The best way to learn the method is to apply it to a real story. That is why we like to help with stories that seem hard to finish. Professionals may bring their own story ideas. We will help them to create a feasible research plan, including sources and a time estimate. And when the research is done and the first draft produced, we come back to help them improve their story-telling. Read more…

We set a benchmark

SBI-CoverPublished  in 2009, our first handbook, “Story-Based Inquiry. A Manual for Investigative journalists”, quickly became a best-free-seller, listed on over two hundred websites and used in journalism schools and centres from the US to Africa and China. In 2014 we also published an extensive curriculum for teaching investigative journalism in universities – the first of its kind. Read more…

If anyone asks you why we need investigative reporting, show 'em this: ... Read moreRead Less

Data Harvest 2015, Brussels: We went, and so glad. Great conference. A key implicit theme was that connections are being made between data journalism and other kinds of investigation. Stephen Grey and his Reuters team showed how to obtain public and private data in Russia -- incredible story about massive graft in public works. Crina Boros demonstrated FOI techniques she learned or devised in about six jurisdictions, used in one story about an extraction firm, a real personal and professional saga. Paul Myers taught us to turn Google into a FB search engine. Correktiv.org, Re: baltica and Gavin Sheridan said very interesting things about business models -- we are beginning to draw a path forward in parallel to foundation support. These were the main things I saw. What most impressed me was the way speakers turned up in each others' presentations and asked good questions that moved the discussion forward and made it more useful. This gives a very good image of our movement, as a place where even the best are still open and learning from each other. I also noticed that speakers are getting better on their own -- excellent case studies, We should be collecting this incredible teaching material, so don't anyone who was there act surprised if you get such a request from me. ... Read moreRead Less

We've been saying for years that NGOs are a growth vector for IJ, as well as for transparency over objectivity as an ethical base for IJ. Here's another example of how such stakeholder-controlled media are playing a watchdog role in European politics, based on solid research and storytelling skills: ... Read moreRead Less

We pay attention to the UN, not least because they publish our manual. So we are very, very glad to see the attached statement from Ban Ki-Moon and colleagues, saying that investigative journalism is like air and water and other essentials:
Hmmm... for some reason, no graphics. Cut and paste the link if you like, it's worth reading!
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From PBS Frontline, an account by Sheri Fink of the NYT on how she found evidence that the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone was known to health officials a month before it "officially" began. I would have liked more followup on the organisational issues that may have resulted in inaction; as is the story suggests blame that could be undeserved, and no way forward to avoid future fiddling while Romes burn. That said, this is an example of how reporting can become investigation when a reporter says, "There's something more here," and looks for it. ... Read moreRead Less

I didn't know Knight Fellow Christopher Guess, but his piece on pseudo- and real innovation in journalism is a howler. Read to the bottom, where Microsoft's use of Skype for translation addresses a major global problem for IJ: ... Read moreRead Less

Just finished four days of teaching masters students at FHWien -- a great group, who helped me nail some typical risks for people starting out with SBI. As follows:
WIDENING THE STORY: Instead of going straight to the most important aspect of a situation, the reporter looks for "angles". The angles widen the story beyond the initial (central) premise. It's a mis-application of a valid technique of news reporting. Of course reporters are trained to find angles on the news; it helps them to focus and compose a narrative under extreme time pressure. But in the context of an investigation, this approach can reduce focus on the core of the story.
MAKING UP "FACTS" INSTEAD OF EXPLAINING THEM: A hypothesis explains visible elements. It's surprising how often students invent hidden elements to supplement the ones they can see. For example, events are explained as the outcome of a conspiracy, without any evidence that such a conspiracy exists. Of course, that makes it impossible to find.
LOOKING FOR PEOPLE TO COMMENT INSTEAD OF PEOPLE WHO ACT: Like widening the story, this behavior is derived (or deviated) from news practice. It appears when you ask a student to create a source village, and the student starts listing "experts" who have only a tangential relation to the story. Typically, they are
the usual suspects, like government ministers or firm spokespeople. The underlying driver is the student's anxiety about not finding a source before the deadline.
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Prediction: In Japan, the Abe government's strongarm tactics against MSM critics will result in the creation of online watchdog media, who will capture the critical audience. The NY Times captures phase one: ... Read moreRead Less

The bad news first: Disinformation on the Web pays big. The good news: as we predicted in "Disrupptive News Technologies" (2010) there is a growing market and audience for journalists who dissect rumor. Both are contained in a landmark report by Craig Silverman, which you'll find here: ... Read moreRead Less

Great story by Direkt36, a new investigative centre in Hungary. Shows what you can do when you're looking for something particular in public records: ... Read moreRead Less

Story-Based Inquiry Associates shared a link. ... Read moreRead Less

As from Monday Luuk starts as a part-time lecturer investigative journalism at the Fontys Hogeschool voor Journalistiek in Tilburg, a university of applied sciences with a strong journalism department.
To mark his new job, he wrote an opion piece in which he tries to find a renewed definition of 'investigative reporting' for his students that is concrete and practical and not mere idealistic.
"Why don't we teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?" he asks. At least it contains values that most decent people on this planet agree on and it offers inspiration for years to come. Besides, the defense of these human rights will only become more acute in the next decennia.
Read the whole aricle here (unfortunatily, so far only in Dutch):
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If you're wondering what the Next Thing in news will look like -- there will be no next BIG thing, alas -- check out David Bauer's collection of fresh ideas: ... Read moreRead Less

We were present at the UNESCO colloquium on "Journalism after Charlie" last week, and two things struck us. First, it's not enough to talk about security for journalists. We can't all be embedded. And if we were, sources would still be in danger. Second, when a journalist asks a panel of religious leaders, "How can we help you?", she is referring to her work as an instrument, and the instrumentalisation of journalists, real or perceived, is why our colleagues at Charlie were murdered. ... Read moreRead Less

Some of you have seen this in other places; I posted it below, but think it got lost. It's about Charlie Hebdo's work in widening the independent media space in France, well before the frontal conflict with Islam. Originally published in GIJN.org: ... Read moreRead Less

GIJN sets out a recent study on FOI online platforms. Having used one this summer, I read it with interest. If you work with FOI, you want to check this out. It's not a manual, it's a rich report on the state of FOI in lots of places. ... Read moreRead Less

Correct!V, a German IJ group, has published an investigation of MH17 that sets a benchmark, using a variety of techniques. Masterful. ... Read moreRead Less

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo hits home to me. These folks were friends and allies, notably when I covered the National Front in the 1990s. They were fanged clowns; their laughs drew blood. They weren't investigators, but they respected the work of investigators -- me, Fiammetta Venner -- and published it. There is no shortage of suspects for the attack: The extreme right or radical Muslims are all candidates. It's astonishing how many people in this world can't stand to hear anyone but themselves. It's even more astonishing how many people keep speaking out and up. Charlie spoke loud. Goodbye, folks. A privilege to have known you. ... Read moreRead Less

IJNet's selection of the tech trends that impacted media in 2014 is very US-centric -- we'd have cited Eliot Higgins's stunning geolocalising work at bellingcat.com -- but still worth reading: ... Read moreRead Less

www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/19/santas-real-workshop-the-to... ... Read moreRead Less

At work in Skopje, Macedonia. ow.ly/GdXXO ... Read moreRead Less

Today, the Story-Based Inquiry Manual was presented in the Macedonian and Albanian languages. This happened during a ceremony in the law and journalism faculty of the state university in Skopje. Our friends from SCOOP Macedonia took the initiative to translate and print the manual and distribute it to all journalism students in Skopje. Also present were representatives of the American and Dutch embassies, who financed the translation. We thank all of them for their effort. After the ceremony Luuk gave a lecture based on the manual to a room packed with students.
Macedonian journalists are experiencing a difficult time. The government wants to regulate online media - as she explains it, to fight libel from anonymous writers. But the journalists fear that the government will (also) try to control independent online magazines, like SCOOP's www.Inbox7.mk SCOOP organized a debate about the issue today. She proposes self-regulation of the serious media, in order to make an intervention by the government unnecessary. Since recently Macedonia has a independent journalism counsil, that looks into complaints. But today's debate, in which we took part by invitation of SCOOP, showed the journalists present to be reluctant to accept any further regulation, for different reasons. Luckily everyone in the room agreed that more professionalism from the journalists could also present a strong case against state regulation.
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Great analysis by Paulm Farhi of how Rolling Stone screwed up in its sensational coverage of an alleged rape... that may never have happened: ... Read moreRead Less

Can one investigate the arts? The unfolding Cosby story says, you bet. The most stunning part of the unfolding scandal, for us, is that victims said nothing for years, sometimes decades, because they thought no one would listen. Which is what we're supposed to do. Here's the latest piece. Be sure to check out the accompanying videos. ... Read moreRead Less

The crisis of news credibility is getting violent in France: ... Read moreRead Less


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