29 August 2015

We help you to investigate

MannetjeLoepStory-Based Inquiry is one of the leading investigative journalism methods, endorced by Unesco and taught in universities and journalism centers around the world.

It helps reporters with little experience to realize their story ideas and seasoned journalists to become more efficient, especially when co-operating in teams. 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…

Our next open training investigative storytelling will be in Hamburg, at the Academie für Publizistik, September 9-11/2015
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We've always needed something like these -- be glad to know if anyone's tried them. ... Read moreRead Less

Growing up in upstate New York, "I learned that policemen are my friends," as Pete Seeger said. But I didn't investigate them. J. Robert Port did, and they apparently pushed back: ... Read moreRead Less

Alert the Politically Correct Police: Handicapped vs Disabled ... Read moreRead Less

Joyce Barnathan of ICFJ endorses alternatives to the gray voice of objectivity. We agree: style = information. ... Read moreRead Less

Undercover "reporting" aimed at entrapping organisations like Plannned Parenthood is back. The so-called Center for Medical Progress has spent three years trying to entrap PP as a vendor of fetal body parts, with no success. They interviewed the director on false pretences, then released a heavily edited entrapment video that drew outrage from US presidential candidates.

This is a total distortion of what undercover work should be -- a last resort to reveal criminal activity, in cases where a reporter's phyical integrity may be threatened. It's now becoming a routine technique aimed at non-criminal activity. As such, it is an open door to abuse.

Check out this statement, a masterpiece of self-justification:
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We knew that lie-busting (or fact-checking, to be polite) is a business opportunity for entrepreneurial journalists or NGOs. Duke University's Reporters Lab has the numbers: ... Read moreRead Less

Paul Myers is on our list of great teachers and practitioners. When he talks about security issues, we listen: ... Read moreRead Less

One more from the Times, which says a lot about how open sources can save a lot of time. The quote is from a story based on a deposition in the scandalous Bill Cosby ideal-father-turns-into-predator story: "Interest in Mr. Cosby’s deposition grew this month when a federal judge unsealed a 62-page memorandum of law in the case, which had been settled in 2006. The memorandum contained excerpts from the deposition, including Mr. Cosby’s acknowledgment that he had obtained quaaludes as part of his effort to have sex with women.

The parties have been prohibited from releasing the memorandum because of a confidentiality clause that was part of the settlement agreement, but the deposition itself was never sealed. This month, Ms. Constand’s lawyer asked the court to lift the confidentiality clause so her client would be free to release the nearly 1,000-page deposition transcript. The Times later learned that the transcript was already publicly available through a court reporting service."
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The New York Times has published a state of the art investigation of outlaw shipping. Articles such as these oculd not have been done a decade ago, because some of the technologies employed by reporters and sources, such as satellite mapping, did not exist. Combined with sophisticated narrative technique -- multiple story lines, a feature viewers know well from TV series -- the result is an indisputably outrageous and tragic tale: ... Read moreRead Less

The imprisonment of reporter Khadija Ismailiya by the Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan has spurred the most ambitious journalistic response to violence since the Arizona Project. It's spearheaded by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, whose network of reporters are hammering out a series of revelations into massive theft of national resources, using the signature of Ismailiya. Here's a sample of their work, and one that should make anyone who participated in the so-called European Games sick with shame: ... Read moreRead Less

If you haven't read this yet, do. Seymour Hersh's meticulous corroboration of inside information is what sets him apart from the credulous pack: ... Read moreRead Less

In parallel with SBI we work with The Stakeholder Media Project, which explores new ways to make IJ sustainable. The High Country News is one of those ways -- a topnotch online magazine aimed at the community of people who care about the American West. Outside rates it as one of the top Ten environmental blogs, and one of only two in that category not published by heritage news organisations. ... Read moreRead Less

Leading FBI into the dirty depths of Blatter's kingdom of corruption
Andrew Jennings tells the story of how he brought down FIFA -- a must read for many reasons, such as: a. Sports reporting is not about being buddies with celebrities; b. A freelancer who targets a big story and stays with it will go places staffers never dream of; c. Punishing the bad guys can be good clean fun. See for yourself, and be sure to check out Andrew's terrific essay on the craft of investigative reporting in The Global Investigative Journalism Casebook, a free download here or from UNESCO:
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The investigative reporter helped bring down Chuck Blazer, the American FIFA official stealing $2million a year. But now Blazer, who is dying of cancer, could be helping bring down his former colleagues.

The investigative reporter helped bring down Chuck Blazer, the American FIFA official stealing $2million a year. But now Blazer, who is dying of cancer, could be helping bring down his former colleagues.

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 Institute shared a link. ... Read moreRead Less


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