by Maud Beelman, Founding Director - International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Investigative pieces are part of the core mission of any news organization. The play a large role in defining what a news organization is about. They often get the biggest headlines and have the biggest impact on readers.
For those reasons, it is important that as many people as possible have a hand in the investigative process, says Maud Beelman, founding director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a network of the world's leading investigative reporters. Beelman is now deputy managing editor for projects and enterprise at the Dallas Morning News.
Some of her suggestions:
- Regular brainstorming meetings (or brown bag lunches) to which everyone - all departments, all levels - are invited;
- Story idea suggestion box in the newsroom;
- A "presence" in the newsroom by the projects editor and regular contacts/rapport with other section and department editors;
- Support from on-high so everyone knows that investigative reporting is a mandate of the paper because it is a service to the community.
Opening up the investigative reporting process helps to dispel the idea that investigative reporters are "prima donnas" and among the privileged few who get to spend great amounts of time on interesting topics. It fosters a sense of cooperation and sharing of ideas in the newsroom (best investigations usually emanate from beats). It helps reporters not on the projects team learn some of the tools of the investigative trade, as well as the rigors of investigative reporting, discipline and verification. And offers the potential for grooming the next group of investigative reporters.