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WAN-IFRA 2009: Is investigative journalism giving up on newspapers?

04-December-2009
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WAN-IFRA 2009: Is investigative journalism giving up on newspapers?

The panel discussion on ‘Is investigative journalism giving up on newspapers?’ on the concluding day of the World Newspaper Congress was invigorating and thought-provoking. The panellists included Nick Davies, Senior Reporter, The Guardian, UK; Aroon Purie, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, The India Today Group; Arne Jensen, Secretary General, Association of Norwegian Editors, Norway; and Shoma Chaudhury, Executive Editor, Tehelka. The session was moderated by George Brock, Professor & Head of Journalism, City University, UK.

Nick Davies of The Guardian raised the bar with his views that all journalism was investigative journalism, the real threat today is for truth telling journalism reason for that being commercialisation of newspapers. “Today, threat to all truth telling journalism is time. In today’s time people should stand up for journalism and not allow the management to push it to the corner,” he said.

Aroon Purie of India Today Group had a different view. He said that technology and other factors like the RTI Act and non-conclusive defamations in India was giving journalists in India an opportunity to take risks that one would not take otherwise. He spoke about a few threats to this journalism, like getting soft on it because of the business side of the publication, selling of editorial space, greenhouse journalism and Google journalism. “The process of public relations has become so subtle and so sophisticated that it has become difficult for journalists to ignore it,” he said. And by Google journalism he meant that journalists were not willing to go and meet people for stories, rather they wanted to sit in the office and finish their reports.

Arne Jensen of the Association of Norwegian Editors said that he did not see any signs of investigative journalism shrinking in Norway. In fact he suggested that investigative journalism should be extended to internet. “If we cannot more investigative journalism to the internet, we will have problems,” he said.

Shoma Chaudhary from Tehelka moved the audience with her views that investigative journalism in India was in a pathetic state and the reason for readers moving away from newspapers was because newspapers had moved away from their basic fundamentals of providing a perspective, truth telling and explicating. “There is a big dis-junct in what readers want today and what we are giving to them. We live in a complex world and people want to understand that world,” she said. She pointed out how organisations would not be courageous brave stories because of self censorship and fear of not getting the audience.

“Journalism and media is constructed on a loss making premise, and if you want to earn money, you better start a luxury toiletry business,” she shared. Chaudhary further stressed that the nature of world had not changed and even today, the rules of the industry could be changed if four to five top media businesses come together and change it. She concluded by saying, “History turns by words of people. Human nature is always inclined towards justice.”

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