The most important job of the journalist is to seek the truth. As Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Lippmann said in his collection of essays, Liberty and the News, “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.”
Investigative journalists (often referred to as Muckrackers, a term coined during the election campaign for Theodore Roosevelt) have a long-standing tradition in the United States of holding those in power accountable. Whether investigating the wrongful conviction of a death-row inmate, or exposing a financial giant for misuse of investors’ funds, investigative journalism is critical for the upholding of a true and just democracy.
If you feel a personal affront when you see the abuse of power, and you have a dogged determination to help bring the abusers to justice, then becoming an investigative journalist may be the career choice for you. Many schools offer courses in investigative journalism. Request information from several, and a representative from each school will phone you to answer your questions and help you determine which school and course of study may be best for you.
What is an Investigative Journalist?
Investigative journalism is the process of researching and telling a story, usually one that someone else is trying to hide. As writers who investigate and report information with the purpose of facilitating change, investigative reporters are behind many of the reforms that we see today. The Internet has led to an easy flow of knowledge, and the successful investigative journalist must know how to use the media to take advantage of the knowledge and well-documented resources that are widely available. Good investigative and research skills, determination, and a keen sense of skepticism are all important qualities to have. Courses in investigative reporting, journalism and the law, writing, ethics, and research techniques can help to hone these critical skills.
Tips from Bob Woodward on Investigative Journalism
Bob Woodward is regarded by some as one of America’s preeminent investigative reporters. He has worked for The Washington Post since 1971 as a reporter, and is currently an associate editor. In 1972 Woodward was teamed up with Carl Bernstein, and the two did much of the original news reporting on the Richard Nixon – Watergate scandal.
How to Become an Investigative Journalist
The need to ask the question “Why?”, and a resolve to change what is wrong in society, are probably the most critical qualifications an investigative journalist can have. Taking advantage of social media, perhaps by writing a blog, is a great way to get started. Request information from journalism schools offering programs in Investigative Journalism, discuss your options with their representatives over the phone, and decide which is the best fit for you. Internships with local news agencies or writing for your school paper can help prepare you for this rewarding career.
Investigative Journalism Degree Programs
An associate’s degree in journalism or related field is a great way to lay the foundation for a career. Perfect for entry-level positions or as the gateway to further education, an associate’s degree will give you the knowledge necessary to assist you in a successful journalism career. Coursework covers a basic liberal arts program, including English, writing, history, media, and communications.
Determination, skepticism, persistence, and a global outlook are the foundational skills that will be enhanced through coursework while you work to obtain your Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. Many employers require a BA in Journalism or related field, so begin your career by requesting information from one of our schools. A representative will call you within 24-48 hours to answer your questions, and help you begin your journey to a successful investigative journalism career.
If you are interested in working for a major publication or furthering your existing career, then pursuing a master’s degree in journalism will help to set you above the competition. Courses in a graduate program typically include:
- Investigative Journalism Ethics and the Law
- Investigative Journalism and the Use of Multi Media
- News-Gathering/Writing Skills
- Laws, Politics and Regulation
- The Changing Landscape of Investigative Reporting
- Finding and Evaluating Information on the Web
- Undercover Work and Subterfuge
Investigative Journalism Jobs
While employment in this area is expected to decline 6% over the next few years, improving technology may add jobs to the field by opening up new lines of work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average salary for reporters and correspondents was $43,780.00 as of May, 2010. Employment among the non-profit organizations is also a great way to go. Examples include:
- The Associated Press (AP)
- National Public Radio (NPR)
- Christian Science Monitor
- Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS)
These non-profit news organizations are revered as having the public’s best interests at heart. With money at least somewhat out of the picture, the influence of the rich and powerful is not as strong.