Are we seeing a revival in investigative journalism?
City University London was delighted to welcome Anya Schiffrin to speak about the new book she has edited Global Muckraking: 100 years of investigative journalism from around the world.'
Upon her visit, she was interviewed about the state of investigative journalism in today's political and media climate by City's Marjorie Deane Professor of Financial Journalism, Steve Schifferes.
Are we seeing a revival in global investigative journalism?
Editing Global Muckraking has put me in touch with investigative journalists all over the world. It seems to me that there is now more sophisticated and in-depth reporting being undertaken than at almost any other time in history. Access to databases and the development of data analysis help reporters to do more in-depth work. The internet helps them connect to each other both for cross-border investigations and for access to sources. Democratic transitions and social media have opened up previously closed media regimes. There is an older generation of experienced reporters who mentor younger, tech-savvy journalists. The result of all these factors is excellent reporting in traditional newspapers, magazines and online, coupled with more ways to distribute the reporting.
What are the risks currently faced by investigative journalists and how to do they compare with the past?
Clearly, violence against journalists continues to be a major problem. The Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute provide information about the state of journalism all over the world and provide advocacy for journalistic rights. Indexon censorship.org is the place to go for a rich discussion on media around the world.
How difficult is it to do investigative journalism today given the financial pressures felt by of much of the press?
There are plenty of stories that are under-reported (think of African coverage of oil and mining) and whole areas that aren't well covered (like local politics in small American towns), but there is superb work being done by publications like The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. The Guardian's handling of the Edward Snowden story will be considered a journalism highpoint for years to come.
Despite the wonderful work being done the financial future of many outlets and organisations is not clear and many will not survive. This is something I learned while researching the book, Global Muckraking. However, it was heartening to see that many of the crusading journalists in the book had an impact even though the magazines and newsletters they published didn't last.
Do you think that recent governments' actions will inhibit investigative journalism, such as the US Justice Department trying to force journalists to reveal sources, and in the UK the police using its RIPA powers (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) to obtain phone records of journalists and their whistleblower sources without court orders?
I think everyone is worried about press freedom and freedom of expression. Since September 11th in the US we've lost a great deal of freedom. New technology enables governments and businesses to take pretty much whatever data and information they want. In the US many journalists are looking to the EU for strong action on privacy and data protection.
You are also talking at Oxford about your book. Why did you choose to come to City?
I've known Steve Schifferes for years and have enjoyed collaborating with him and Howard Tumber. The book Schifferes just edited on the media and financial crises is excellent and I was excited to meet other colleagues and the students. It was interesting to learn first-hand about the investigative work being done here, the research on Africa, the commitment to news and digital technology and to see the great space you have. It was fun to mingle on Thursday evening and spend more time talking. The wine wasn't bad either!