The 2000-word Investigative Story Assignment

 

Marking Criteria 2000-word Investigative Story
You are more likely to receive a high mark if you:

have chosen a topic of public interest worthy of a journalistic investigation
have correctly assessed the viability of the investigation considering your resources, skills, experience and the time allocated for this exercise
have set clear, valid, reachable goals for your investigation
have identified, contacted and interviewed relevant, authoritative and credible sources and consulted documents, reports and previous investigations related to your subject;
have used a range of investigative methods and techniques that were appropriate for the topic of the investigation
have written an interesting, fluent, appealing story that presents the results of your research in a clear and unambiguous manner
have conducted yourself in an ethical manner throughout the exercise, and in particular, have been respectful, considerate and cooperative to your team mates and your tutor.

A 2000-WORD INVESTIGATIVE STORY

Teams of two to three members will write a 2000-word investigative story on a subject of their choice that must be approved by the module convener. Notice this is a journalistic story, not an academic essay, so it must be written as if intended for publication in a newspaper or magazine in the UK.

You will:

1- Identify an appropriate subject for your story. Remember:

“(Investigative journalists’) stories call attention to the breakdown of social systems and the disorder within public institutions that cause injury and injustice; in turn, their stories implicitly demand the response of public officials –and the public itself- to that breakdown and disorder. Thus, the work of these reporters calls us, as a society, to decide what is, and what is not, an outrage to our sense of moral order and to consider our expectations for our officials, our institutions, and ultimately ourselves” (Ettema and Glasser 1998: 3).

2- Assess the viability of your idea. You must consider the complexity of the subject, the accessibility of sources, the time and resources that would be necessary to complete the research. You must assess the risk involved and the ethical and legal problems that might arise during the course of the investigation. You must also consider whether you possess the knowledge, the experience, the technical expertise and other necessary professional skills and personal qualities to succeed in your work.

3- Plan the research. You must identify and locate sources of information, and devise a strategy to reach them. You must assess the effectiveness of several research methods and use the ones that better suit you and your research. Remember:

“You have to be skeptical of your own sources. You have to be skeptical of your own judgment. You have to corroborate everything (…) It’s the same thing with every source, even my most trusted sources, you’ve got to check it out; you’ve got to realize that everybody that comes to you with an idea, or a tip, or a suggestion has their own agenda” (Douglas Frantz interviewed by Chepesiuk et al 1997: 69).

And also:

“Throughout the process, investigative reporters and editors constantly reevaluate their conception of the story. Much of this process is also regularly done during routine daily news reporting, of course, but the emphasis on original research, the framing of the story as being a comprehensive look at a public problem, and the delay of key “target” interviews until most of the research is completed separate investigative journalism from routine news reporting” (Aucoin 2005: 93).

4- Once you are satisfied that you have brought a “totally new factual material to light” and that you have gathered enough information about your subject (David Brock quoted by Chepesiuk et al 1997: 145), you will write the story. Avoid the academic style: you will find inspiration in the classic examples of investigative reporting analysed in the module. Make sure your text has a vigorous and exciting style, but remember, accuracy and objectivity are paramount.

5- Before submission:

a) make sure you have not exceeded the 2000-word limit

b) check grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation

c) make sure your quotes and other data are accurate and that evidence supporting them is provided or available on request

d) make sure that you understand the ethical, legal and political implications of your story, and that you have taken all necessary measures to protect your data, your sources and other persons involved or affected by the research

e) make sure you have put in a safe place your notebooks, disks, memory cards or tapes

f) make sure you have created a single document including your story, a sourcesheet, and the ethics declaration
A 2000-WORD INVESTIGATIVE STORY

Teams of two to three members will write a 2000-word investigative story on a subject of their choice that must be approved by the module convener. Notice this is a journalistic story, not an academic essay, so it must be written as if intended for publication in a newspaper or magazine in the UK.

You will:
1- Identify an appropriate subject for your story. Remember:

“(Investigative journalists’) stories call attention to the breakdown of social systems and the disorder within public institutions that cause injury and injustice; in turn, their stories implicitly demand the response of public officials –and the public itself- to that breakdown and disorder. Thus, the work of these reporters calls us, as a society, to decide what is, and what is not, an outrage to our sense of moral order and to consider our expectations for our officials, our institutions, and ultimately ourselves” (Ettema and Glasser 1998: 3).

2- Assess the viability of your idea. You must consider the complexity of the subject, the accessibility of sources, the time and resources that would be necessary to complete the research. You must assess the risk involved and the ethical and legal problems that might arise during the course of the investigation. You must also consider whether you possess the knowledge, the experience, the technical expertise and other necessary professional skills and personal qualities to succeed in your work.

3- Plan the research. You must identify and locate sources of information, and devise a strategy to reach them. You must assess the effectiveness of several research methods and use the ones that better suit you and your research. Remember:

“You have to be skeptical of your own sources. You have to be skeptical of your own judgment. You have to corroborate everything (…) It’s the same thing with every source, even my most trusted sources, you’ve got to check it out; you’ve got to realize that everybody that comes to you with an idea, or a tip, or a suggestion has their own agenda” (Douglas Frantz interviewed by Chepesiuk et al 1997: 69).

And also:

“Throughout the process, investigative reporters and editors constantly reevaluate their conception of the story. Much of this process is also regularly done during routine daily news reporting, of course, but the emphasis on original research, the framing of the story as being a comprehensive look at a public problem, and the delay of key “target” interviews until most of the research is completed separate investigative journalism from routine news reporting” (Aucoin 2005: 93).

4- Once you are satisfied that you have brought a “totally new factual material to light” and that you have gathered enough information about your subject (David Brock quoted by Chepesiuk et al 1997: 145), you will write the story. Avoid the academic style: you will find inspiration in the classic examples of investigative reporting analysed in the module. Make sure your text has a vigorous and exciting style, but remember, accuracy and objectivity are paramount.

5- Before submission:

a) make sure you have not exceeded the 2000-word limit

b) check grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation

c) make sure your quotes and other data are accurate and that evidence supporting them is provided or available on request

d) make sure that you understand the ethical, legal and political implications of your story, and that you have taken all necessary measures to protect your data, your sources and other persons involved or affected by the research

e) make sure you have put in a safe place your notebooks, disks, memory cards or tapes

f) make sure you have created a single document including your story, a sourcesheet, and the ethics declaration

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