The investigative Journalism Community
In the past decades, a community of investigative journalists has evolved. Today there are lively and regular contacts on regional, national, European and global level. Journalists unite to share methods, develop the journalistic craft and, not in the least, network for research.
Reporter Don Bolles thought he was going to meet a source - part of his research into land fraud involving organised crime. Instead, the journalist at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, was so heavily injured by a car bomb, that the doctors could not save him, even though they struggled for days.
This happened in 1976, and some of his colleagues, reporters and editors, had only one year before founded the association for Investigative Reporters and Editors. They decided to finish his research. A big empty room was hired and turned into a newsroom, reporters and editors over weeks and months granted spare time and expertise to unveil the criminal structure. The action got later known as the Arizona Project and is considered one of the set-offs for investigative journalists cooperating more intensely.
While US colleagues started to cooperate on investigative journalism already in 1975, European journalists began to found investigative associations only in the late 1980s, when Denmark (1989), Sweden and Norway (1990) and Finland (1992) founded associations for investigative journalism.
The next move came around the time of the first Global Investigative Conference, which was held in Copenhagen in 2001. In these years, Germany and Netherlands/Flanders founded their associations for investigative journalism, in Romania the Romanian Center for Investigative Reporting was founded in 2001 as well.
Since then various initiatives, projects and organisations supporting research journalism have been growing, thus providing fertile soil for further developments, most recently Switzerland, Slovenia and Poland have founded networks or organisations for investigative journalism.
The overall aim is to support and develop research and quality journalism. This is done by exchanging best experiences, developing, sharing and improving new methods and through networking.
Find a list with contacts to the European investigative journalism community here.
The Global Investigative Journalism network meets every 18-24 months. In Europe journalists interested in cross-border and data journalism meet at the annual Data Harvest Conference in May/June each year. A European Investigative Journalism conference was held in 2008 and 2012 by the Dutch-Flemish VVOJ. The Dataharvest growing significantly as of 2015 is also called the European Investigative Journalism Conference.
What is investigative journalism?
In the view of Journalismfund Europe there is no final definition of investigative journalism. On the contrary – it should be a vivid process to strive for investigative journalism and any definition must be scrutinised over and over in an ongoing debate among journalists. However, we would like to contribute to this debate by adding some crucial points from several parts of the world.
The leader of Swedish TV's investigative magazine Uppdrag Granskning, Nils Hanson, has the following definitions on investigative journalism published in his book Grävande Journalistik from 2009:
- Critical approach - focus is on what does not work and in one way or another can be described as an anomaly.
- Important subject - only a question of importance for the common good can motivate the amount of effort and resources, that very well may have to be invested in the research as well as the criticism uttered in the publication.
- Own initiative - journalists/editors decide, what is important.
- Own research - the reporter gathers information and documents, sometimes in spite of tough resistance.
- Own analysis - the information gathered and the documents are evaluated. An expert can assist in the analysis, but publication does not depend on what someone says.
- Exclusivity - the public learns important information, that else would not have been in the open.
“Investigative journalism is critical and thorough journalism,” according to the definition of the Dutch-Flemish Association for Investigative Journalism, VVOJ.
Critical means that journalism is not merely passing on ‘news’ that already exist. It implies news, which would not be available without any journalistic intervention. This can be done by creating new facts, but also through re-interpretation or correlation of facts already at hand. Thorough means that one makes an own substantial effort, either in quantitative terms – much time spent in research, many sources consulted, etc. - in qualitative terms - sharp questions formulated, new approaches used, etc., or a combination of both.
Based on this definition we discern three types of investigative journalism. Incidentally, these categories might overlap.
- Uncover scandals. Aimed at detecting violations of laws, rules or norms of decency, by organisations or individuals.
- Review of policies or functioning of government, businesses and other organisations.
- Draw attention to social, economic, political and cultural trends. Aimed at detecting changes in society.
Center for Investigative Journalism
According to the Center for Investigative Journalism at London City University, ”UK and US colleagues tend to define IJ in its moral and ethical purpose and obligation, rather than as a slightly more serious version of ordinary news reporting.“
In the service of the Public Interest, our purpose is to uncover corruption, injustice, maladministration and lies. As a duty to readers and viewers as well as self-protection in a hostile legal environment, investigative journalism seeks above all to tell the documented truth in depth and without fear or favour. It is to provide a voice for those without one and to hold the powerful to account. It's to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Is it critical and thorough? Yes, but investigative journalism is sceptical and keen to bring information that someone wants to be kept secret, into the public light.
Sheila Coronel from the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University in New York in her book Digging Deeper from 2009 has five definitions of, what investigative journalism is NOT, and three of what it is:
Investigative journalism IS NOT:
- Daily reporting
- Leak journalism
- Single source reporting
- Misuse of information
- Paparazzi journalism
Investigative journalism IS
- Watchdog journalism
- Exposing how laws and regulations are violated
- Holding the powerful accountable
Mark Lee Hunter
A study on investigative journalism by Mark Lee Hunter called Story-Based Inquiry: A manual for investigative journalists defines investigative journalism by delineating it from 'conventional' journalism:
"Investigative journalism involves exposing to the public matters that are concealed – either deliberately by someone in a position of power, or accidentally, behind a chaotic mass of facts and circumstances that obscure understanding. It requires using both secret and open sources and documents."
"Conventional news reporting depends largely and sometimes entirely on materials provided by others (such as police, governments, companies, etc.); it is fundamentally reactive, if not passive. Investigative reporting, in contrast, depends on material gathered or generated through the reporter’s own initiative (which is why it is often called “enterprise reporting”)."
"Conventional news reporting aims to create an objective image of the world as it is. Investigative reporting uses objectively true material – that is, facts that any reasonable observer would agree are true – toward the subjective goal of reforming the world. That is not a license to lie in a good cause. It is a responsibility, to learn the truth so that the world can change."
Feel free to contribute to the debate and send your comment to info [at] journalismfund.eu
Investigative journalism in Europe
BELGIUM - NETHERLANDS Association of Investigative Journalists / Vereniging van Onderzoeksjournalisten VVOJ (founded 2001)
The Vereniging van Onderzoeksjournalisten VVOJ is a Dutch-Flemish association for and by journalists. They want to stimulate investigative journalism by spreading knowledge about it. All journalists who share this ambition can become members.
DENMARK Foreningen for Undersøgende Journalistik - FUJ (founded 1989)
The Danish Association for Investigative Journalism (Foreningen for Undersøgende Journalistik, FUJ) works to promote investigative journalism in Danish media. As a FUJ member, you do not need to work with investigative journalism yourself, but the members support the work to promote this type of journalism. It was founded in 1989.
FINLAND Tutkiva - Föreningen för undersökande journalistik (founded 1992)
The Finnish Investigative Journalism Association, Tutkivan journalismin yhdistys, aims to promote thorough and critical journalism, the means are to improve the capacity of journalists and their working conditions. Tutkiva was founded in 1992.
GERMANY Netzwerk Recherche (founded 2001)
The association (Netzwerk Recherche, NR) works to promote investigative journalism in Germany. It represents the interests of those colleagues, who insist on conducting thorough research in journalism, a core interest is to further and improve the education in the field. Netzwerk Recherche was founded in 2001.
SPAIN La Asociación de Periodistas de Investigación (founded ?)
La Asociación de Periodistas de Investigación is the first Association of Investigative Journalists in Spain. The founders are professionals from different media and ideologies with a common need: to implement investigative journalism in public service that serves to lift the carpets of power and stir consciences.
SWEDEN Föreningen Grävande Journalister (founded 1990)
The Association for Investigative Journalism in Sweden (Föreningen Grävanda Journalister, Gräv) aims at encouraging reporters to utilize investigative methods for in-depth reporting. This is done by providing training as well as in-house instruction. Also, a yearly seminar gathers hundreds of reporters for the purpose of sharing their collective experiences, education and knowledge in the field. Gräv was founded in 1990.
SWITZERLAND Swiss Investigation (founded 2003)
The Swiss investigative network is an independent organisation promoting the exchange of contacts and competences between the Swiss investigative reporters and their foreign colleagues. The purpose of this non-for-profit network is to facilitate access to data and resources and promote methods of best practices in investigative reporting. It was founded in 2003.
SWITZERLAND Investigativ.ch (founded 2010)
In the association, investigativ.ch journalists have joined forces, who want an open exchange about research, research techniques and obstacles against research.
Foundations / Funds
BELGIUM Journalismfund Europe vzw (founded 1998)
Journalismfund Europe vzw is an independent non‐profit organisation established in 1998 by citizens. The organisation was established with the purpose of facilitating investigative, cross-border and independent journalism in order to promote democracy in Europe by connecting donors and journalists.
THE NETHERLANDS Fonds voor Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten (founded 1990)
The Dutch Fund for In-depth Journalism was set up in 1990 by an independent group of journalists and is funded by the Dutch government.
HUNGARY The Soma Foundation (founded 2001)
"The Gőbölyös József "Soma" Foundation seeks to enhance the functioning of democracy in Hungary by providing awards, stipends and legal defence to investigative journalists working toward greater transparency and accountability in society" according to its website.
POLAND Foundation for Reporters (founded 2010)
Fundacja Reporterow's Initial activities are conferences and a cross-border award.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA The Center for Investigative Reporting (founded 2004)
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) is a Bosnian-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina understand what is happening in their country. The goal is to give the people the information they need to make informed decisions in a participatory democracy, to hold government and government officials accountable and to promote transparency through improving the freedom to access information.
BRITAIN The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (founded 2010)
"The Bureau of Investigative Journalism officially launched on Monday 26th April 2010. The not-for-profit organisation is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to bolster original journalism by producing high-quality investigations for national and international press and broadcast media," according to its website. The £2 million start-up funding comes from David and Elaine Potter.
BRITAIN The Centre for Investigative Journalism (founded in 2003)
The Centre for Investigative Journalism advances education for, and public understanding of, investigative journalism, critical inquiry, and in-depth reporting and research. CIJ is a registered charity offering high-level training, resources and research to the community, journalists, students, non-governmental organisations and others interested in public integrity and the defence of the public interest. It is based at the City University in London.
CROATIA Investigative Journalism Center CIN - IJC (founded 2013)
The Investigative Journalism Center (CIN - IJC) is a non-governmental and non-profit organization. IJC supports the development of investigative reporting in Croatia and other countries in South-Eastern Europe.
CZECH REPUBLIC České centrum pro investigativní žurnalistiku - CCIZ (founded 2013)
The Czech Center for Investigative Journalism (CCIZ) was founded by a group of Czech journalists and has as its mission to promote, protect and train investigative journalists, and address the need of local journalism to follow new media trends and standards.
DENMARK Investigative Reporting Denmark (founded 2013)
Investigative Reporting Denmark is a Danish centre for investigative journalism. First and foremost the centre is a watchdog that will attempt to keep in check those in power. It investigates the important stories that other media generally choose not to run and makes difficult information accessible.
GERMANY CORRECT!V (founded 2014)
CORRECT!V aims to uncover unethical behaviour and structural disadvantages through extensive investigation. It wants to combine the classical virtues of journalism with technical innovation in data analysis and integrate solidly researched facts into modern stories.
HUNGARY Átlátszó Center for Investigative Journalism (founded 2011)
Átlátszó Center for Investigative Journalism is a watchdog NGO based in Budapest, Hungary, that combines investigative journalism and civic activism to promote transparency in Hungary.
HUNGARY DIREKT36 (founded 2015)
Direkt36 is an investigative journalism center in Hungary with the mission to expose wrongdoings and abuse of power, by producing stories based on tough questions and hard facts.
ICELAND Icelandic Center for Investigative Journalism (founded 2011)
The Icelandic Center for Investigative Journalism (Miðstöð rannsóknarblaðamennsku á Íslandi, ICIJ) was founded as a response to a grave situation in Iceland where investigative journalism is almost non-existent. It is an independent body associated with The University of Iceland, sanctioned by its Social Science Department.
ITALY Investigative Reporter Project Italy (founded 2012)
IRPI is a collective of investigative journalists that want to produce journalistic inquiries. Their investigations, some of which are initiated by IRPI's own members while others are commissioned by third parties, intend to inform their audience about all sort of wrongdoings with a special focus on public matters.
LATVIA Baltic Centre for Investigative Journalism (founded 2011)
The Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism intends to perform long-term, in-depth cross-border investigations of socially important issues, with a focus on topics involving corruption, crime, finances, entrepreneurship, health and human rights. The Center’s main focus will be corruption and lack of transparency at the higher structures of power: justice system, law enforcement, political parties and other major public institutions.
ROMANIA The Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism (founded 2001)
The main goal of the Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism (Centrul Roman pentru Jurnalism de Investigatie, CRJI) is to enhance the quality of investigative journalism in the country. Members of the Center themselves work on investigative stories, the center is run independently from local financing resources and has established investigative desks in ten of the main cities of Romania. It was founded in 2001.
ROMANIA OCCRP (founded 2012)
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a not-for-profit, joint program of a number of regional non-profit investigative centers and for-profit independent media stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia.
SERBIA The Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism (founded 2008)
The Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism (CINS) engages in investigative journalism in order to provide trusted and accurate information, based on facts and evidence, which will help Serbian citizens better understand the events taking place in their country.
SLOVENIA CPNS Center za preiskovalno novinarstvo (founded 2013)
The Slovenian Centre for Investigative Journalism CPNS.
(Updated by Rafael Njotea on 13 February 2015)
Global Investigative Journalism Networks
Since 2001 Global Investigative Journalism Conferences GIJC have taken place. In 2003 the Global Investigative Journalism Network was formed. It consists of organisations and pre-organisations, each organisation has one vote, representatives meet at the GIJCs, in between conferences a voluntary committee oversees activities and preparations for the next conference.
The most important means of communication is the Global Mailing List.
2001 - Copenhagen / Denmark - initiated by Nils Mulvad and Brant Houston with the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism and the US Investigative Reporters and Editors.
2003 - Copenhagen / Denmark - same organisers as above
2005 - Amsterdam / the Netherlands - organised by the VVOJ
2007 - Toronto / Canada - organised by the Canadian Association of Journalists.
2008 - Lillehammer / Norway - organised by SKUP.
2010 - Geneva / Switzerland - organised by Swiss investigation
2011 - Kiev / Ukraine - organised by Scoop
2013 - Rio de Janeiro / Brazil - organised by ABRAJ
2015 - Lillehammer / Norway - organised by SKUP.
2017 - Johannesburg / South Africa - organised by Wits University
2019 - Hamburg / Germany - organised by Netzwerk Recherche.
2023 - Gothenburg / Sweden - coorganised by FGJ / FOJO / GIJN