Finding the truth in investigative pieces

Investigative journalism depends largely on data from public documents and databases that have often been created from public documents. But, as we have been talking about in the Investigative Reporting class I teach at Cedarville University, that data only tells you so much.

A case in point is the story below about how reporters didn’t completely understand the information that other researchers had presented about the issue of gun control. Follow the link in the tweet below to learn more about this story.

Last week our class visited the Dayton Daily News and attended a meeting that involved some members of the newspaper’s investigative team. As we tossed around story ideas I made a comment about something that might skew the notion one of the editors had. Another editor immediately jumped in and reminded everyone that you must report on and around the data. He said it is often true that the original conlcusions that might be drawn from the data aren’t always 100 percent what the reporter thinks. And sometimes those notions aren’t even close.

It was a great reminder to the students that reporting is much more than looking things up. You have to ask a lot of questions of the right people. I always tell students to challenge their assumptions when they report, so that when the start to write they know what the story is truly about.

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