What is an Investigative Journalist?

Cassie L. Damewood

An investigative journalist is a professional reporter who researches news and current events and topics and dispenses the information to the public. He may publish his work in a newspaper, magazine or Web site, or broadcast it on radio or television. His topics may be local, domestic or international in nature.

Some investigative journalists work at magazines.
Some investigative journalists work at magazines.

Some investigative journalists are on the staffs of newspapers or magazines or work for television or radio stations. Others may post online for blog sites or web-based newspapers. Freelancers in this profession commonly offer their stories to the highest bidders or to a source that offers the best or most extensive exposure.

An television investigative journalist may gather information by interviewing people.
An television investigative journalist may gather information by interviewing people.

The word investigative distinguishes these journalists from regular reporters and news writers. The term implies their goal is to expose scandals or unearth details certain companies or individuals would rather not publicly disclose. Whenever a news story breaks about a product recall, misuse of public funds or inappropriate conduct by a public official or celebrity, an investigative reporter is normally credited with making the information available to the general population.

An investigative journalist might work for a large newspaper.
An investigative journalist might work for a large newspaper.

An investigative journalist may gather his information through following anonymous tips, interviewing alleged witnesses or participants or obtaining suppressed documents that frequently contain incriminating information. He usually gathers the information on his own but may use trusted sources to substantiate his stories. An ethical investigative reporter is generally expected to have facts to support all of the details in his reports.

An investigative journalist is supposed to ask difficult questions of a public figure at a press conference.
An investigative journalist is supposed to ask difficult questions of a public figure at a press conference.

A person with this job may work in a private office and cover local or regional news. An investigative journalist may be part of a team that works in unison to research and develop stories. Some in this profession specialize in one area of news, such as crime or health, while others’ areas of expertise are more general and encompass broad topics such as war, religion and international affairs and politics.

Investigative journalists may write about recovery efforts following a natural disaster.
Investigative journalists may write about recovery efforts following a natural disaster.

Success as a journalist normally requires more than excellent investigative skills. Persons who do extremely well in this job normally have an innate ability to identify subjects and topics that appeal to a widespread audience. Success in this position also normally demands a strong sense of ethics and a good understanding of many cultures and their beliefs and practices. The ability to be a discreet and accurate fact checker is also a common requirement for success as an investigative journalist.

Investigative journalists usually sit in on local meetings to report important highlights.
Investigative journalists usually sit in on local meetings to report important highlights.

Applicants for positions in investigative journalism are generally required to have a bachelor’s or master's degree in journalism or communications. Most employers prefer journalism experience at either a high school or college level. A genuine interest in and understanding of a wide range of social subjects such as politics, history, economics and geography is strongly preferred by a significant number of employers.

Investigative journalists are usually required to have a bachelor's or master's degree in journalism.
Investigative journalists are usually required to have a bachelor's or master's degree in journalism.

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Discussion Comments

anon165353

I notice that throughout this page you do not make it a unisex topic. You use only the words, "he" and "his" throughout it. This being that i am working to become something in the journalist field, as well being a female is somewhat disappointing to me. Disregarding that, good information for research purposes.

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