What is Investigative Journalism? What is the Importance of Investigative Journalism in a democracy like India?
Clark R. Mollevhogg in the Foreword of his book Investigative Reporting mentions three elements of investigating reporting:
- The report has to be the own work of the reporter. Under no circumstance should it be of others.
- The subject should be such that it is of importance for the readers to know., and
- Reporter must not make any attempt to hide the truth from the people.
In Western countries investigative reporting has made great leaps. However, in India it is still in its infancy. Most newspapers in India do not have the manpower and funds necessary for a first-rate investigative job.
According to one eminent Indian Editor, attempts at investigative reporting are like drilling for oil. There may be a fair amount of wastage of effort, but when the oil is discovered and becomes marketable, the sense of achievement is usually more than in any other sector of journalistic enterprise.
The Watergate story which led to the disgrace and downfall of US President Richard Nixon is the best example of investigative reporting. On June 17,1972, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two young reporters of The Washington Post, started investigating the arrest of four men for a burglary at Watergate, the Democratic Party’s national headquarters. But at that rime they had no idea that their investigation would result in the resignation of the President. During their investigation, they maintained the highest standards of professional journalism. The reporters did not start gunning for Nixon from the beginning. They only pursued the burglary attempt and only later came up with startling facts linking the White House with it. “We did not go after the President, we went after the story”, they said.
In India, investigative reporting started after the end of the emergency in 1977, particularly by The Indian Express. Investigative reporters in India have brought to light a number of scandals including the Bhagalpur blindings incidents by the police, Kuo oil deal, A.R. Antulay’s private trusts, the securities scam involving Indian and foreign banks and stock brokers. Once a reporter got himself arrested for writing a first-hand account of life in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Investigative reporting requires hard and sustained work. The investigative reporter should be a combination of a crusader, super detective and blood hound and he should have the necessary time and finance to carry out his work.
An investigative reporter should base his report on incontrovertible facts, not on half-truths and lies. He should be wary of lobbies and lobbyists-political or commercial trying to misguide him. Also, he should not behave like a peeping Tom or a prosecutor. The best kind of investigative reporting is that which keeps the public interest in mind. It may highlight an injustice, expose corrupt practices or unmask dishonest politicians and bureaucrats.
As per the experience, an investigative reporter cannot bring his reports to logical ends unless he gets the support of the judiciary, the executive or the legislative. The Bhagalpur blinding report would have ended like any other report if a public interest litigation would not have been filed against the police. In the US, the Watergate stories would not have led to any result if they did not get the support of the legislative which threatened the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.