Reporters do investigative journalism for three reasons: to uncover scandals, review policies of the government, businesses, and organizations, and to draw attention to social, economic, political, and cultural trends.
There are countless reporters who have disguised themselves achieve one of these goals. Among one of the first and most notable was Nellie Bly. Bly pretended to be insane so that she would be sent to the asylum, Blackwell Island. After being poorly treated as “undoubtedly insane”, she wrote about her experiences. Bly developed a new kind of reporting called “stunt reporting” which got her noticed.
Although investigative journalism can come with risks, there are journalists full of passion who are willing to put their lives in danger. Brian Ross is one of those reporters. Ross traveled the world, and put his life at jeopardy numerous times. At one point in his career he was targeted for assassination in Columbia. After a series of events, he wound up getting hurt, which still didn’t stop him from continuing his job.
One strange case of an undercover reporter is Norah Vincent. She wanted to see how large the gender gap between men and women was. To do so, she cut her hair, worked out, wrapped her breasts, and even wore a prosthetic penis so she could look like a man. Going to strip clubs, speed dating, and spending three weeks in a Catholic monastery were just some of her “manly” activities she did. Vincent wrote a book about her experience and found that women and men aren’t that different.
Even though undercover journalism is dangerous and sometimes obscure, many continue to pursue it. They’ll go to great lengths to get their stories. The field is competitive, and people are willing to take risks. Reporters enjoy answering “hard” questions, and getting the answers. The Center for Investigative Reporting, the nation’s oldest non-profit investigative news organization, is always working to make sure that this extreme type of reporting doesn’t die. It’s evident that undercover reporting will always be vital to the news.