Becoming a good investigative journalist is easy if you follow these three steps:
- Find and use your sources effectively
- Cite your sources correctly
- Get experience
A journalist’s information is only as good as its source. Any good journalist knows this old adage. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are two examples of good journalists that know how to find and use their sources effectively.
After cracking the Watergate Scandal in 1972, which resulted in President Nixon’s resignation, they went on to write several books about their experiences as investigative journalists. These books include: All the President’s Men, The Final Days, and Obama’s Wars among others. They could not have done any of this without knowing how to use good sources.
When Woodward offers insight into the business of investigative journalism, such as in the video below, future investigative journalists would be wise to listen.
Citing sources correctly is extremely important. Regardless of how credible the source may be, the information your sources give you means nothing if you cite them improperly. This can also hurt your credibility as a journalist. Here are some resources to help you cite your sources correctly:
- The Purdue OWL is a free online formatting and style guide.
- The University of Arlington Texas has a website that answers many frequently asked questions about AP style.
- Your AP stylebook!
Now that you know how to cite your sources, you need experience. Students interested in pursuing investigative journalism as a career have lots of options. They include:
- The Global Investigative Journalism Network offers training courses for future investigative reporters.
- The Committee to Protect Journalists, also known as CPJ, is an organization created to defend journalists’ rights world-wide.
- Reporters Without Borders gives financial aid to journalists that enables them to travel.
If you follow these three steps, becoming a good investigative journalist is simple.