Is College Investigative Reporting Realistic or Romantic?
From The News Manual:
“Never interview the person at the centre of the investigation first. Always start at the edge and work your way towards the middle. You must not warn the person under investigation too soon. Also, you need to gather as many facts as possible before you put your questions to the person at the centre.”
This was probably the most useful quote that I read because it applies to all sorts of journalism. If you start on the outside and work your way in, by the time you meet with the person who really knows their stuff, you can ask them educated and pointed questions. You won’t waste your time or theirs.
I have to admit, what we’ve read about investigative reporting sounds rather romantic. For example, this website suggests that if you suspect one garage is not fixing cars but charging the owners for the repairs, you could write about it. It said you should take the car there several times and then go to your trusted mechanic and see is the repairs were actually made. The problem with this is:
1) How are you getting the money?- Do newspapers reimburse you for your losses? Would the exposed shop be required by law to give you your money back? If I took my car somewhere to get it fixed and they didn’t do it but I got charged $1,000 (as car repairs are often pricey) for the time being I’m out $1,000.
2) Most normal college students don’t have a lot of money or the contacts that this site suggests you have. We normally have a few teachers we can talk to and a number of students. To actually start some investigative journalism on campus would mean that we would have to put our own reputations on the line. This is not something to play around with. If you choose to go the other route, though, and do something off campus, unless you conveniently know of something to investigate, you’re going to not have a clue about what to write about.
From what I’ve read, it seems as though investigative reporting is more for the big guns. The people who have an established career, the contacts, and the knowledge to write such a story.