Investigative Journalists

‘Investigating’ is a detailed enquiry so as to discover facts that will help establish the truth. Investigative Journalists are professionals in the field of Investigative Journalism and are involved in deep and through research, often to reveal facts that somebody does not want to reveal. They focus on bringing the truth out in front of the public on issues that are of public interest. Investigative Journalists collect, analyze and interpret information by themselves based on their own initiatives. They work towards establishing accountability and minimizing justice. Investigative Journalists expose violations of rules and laws that the authorities and the public are unaware of.  The main difference between Investigative Journalists and other journalists is that other types of journalists ‘react’ to events and publicized information, whereas Investigative Journalists are involved in ‘active’ journalism where they reveal information that was being kept secret from the public.

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Investigative Journalism, also known as ‘Watchdog Journalism’, is a great career choice if you have the right aptitude. It is a career that involves a lot of risk and competition. Till very recently, the opportunities for Investigative Journalists in traditional media forms such as Print Media have been declining, but the growth of Online Journalism has revitalized this profession. The innovation of smaller cameras and microphones along with the internet has taken Investigative Journalism to new heights. If you manage to establish your name in the world of Journalism, then the growth opportunities are endless and you can even be heading a big media organization. Investigative Journalists are hired by Newspapers, Magazines, Websites and News Channels. A lot of Investigative Journalists also work as Freelancers and carry out the investigation independently. You can be well paid in this profession if you manage to get a job in one of the big organizations.

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What do Investigative Journalists do?

The main aim of an Investigative Journalist is to collect exclusive information about the concerned topic. Investigative Journalists are involved in all types of cases; especially cases related to crime and corruption. They follow their own instincts and dig out information from various sources. They are also involved in producing proofs that support their investigation, such as documents and interviews.

One of the main jobs of Investigative Journalists is to conduct research and collect information on topics that they believe comprise of illegal and unjust activities that the public and authorities are unaware of. They keep their eyes and ears open and are always looking to reveal hidden facts that are of public concern. They conduct research by interpreting other news reports, by taking interviews, following leads and by going through public/private records.

Another important task that is essential to the job of an Investigative Journalist is to create a network of people and publications that will provide him/her with relevant confidential information. Investigative Journalists have ‘sources’ or ‘informers’ in various works of life who provide them with vital leads and information. They have to make sure that they establish good relations with these sources so that they can obtain vital information from them during research.

Collecting proof is another important task that Investigative Journalists perform. It is probably the riskiest part of the job and also the most important one. As most publications and channels do not wish to report on topics based only on speculation, a proof serves as an authentication of the report and establishes credibility. Investigative Journalists collect proof in various ways, including interviews, documents, shooting videos, clicking photographs and recording sounds.

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Investigative Journalists are also involved in analyzing and interpreting the information and proofs they have collected. Their aim is to establish through this information that the crime or injustice has been committed. To do this, they simplify complicated information and highlight important details so that the facts become clear to the public and the authorities.

Writing and presenting reports is a vital part of the job of an Investigative Journalists. These reports are the mediums through which the information is conveyed to the public and concerned authorities. The impact of the information and proof depends on the quality of the report. If the report is well written/presented, it can move and impact the audience in a positive way and force the authorities to take immediate action.

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Contrary to popular perception, Investigative Journalists do not always work alone. As a matter of fact, they are usually working in teams alongside the editor of the publication/channel. They hold regular meetings with the rest of the team to discuss the steps to be taken and the information to be collected.

How to become an Investigative Journalist?

To become an Investigative Journalist, you will need to focus on your studies and communication skills from school itself. Subjects like English and Social Studies are very important. You should choose Arts after your Class 10th and focus on all subjects. It is vital as an aspiring Investigative Journalist to take part in co – curricular activities like debates and writing competitions. They will help you become confident as well as improve your interpersonal and communication skills.

Once you complete your schooling, you will have to pursue a graduate degree in Mass Communication or a B.A in Journalism from a reputed institute. This might involve preparing and passing various entrance exams as well. A Master’s degree in the same field can help you gain more knowledge and experience in the subject and turn you into a better Journalist.

It is to be kept in mind that most Journalism courses are at the Post Graduate level, therefore many aspiring Journalists take up Bachelor level courses in subjects like English, Sociology or Political Science. They then go on to join Journalism/Mass Communication courses after their graduation.

Networking is absolutely essential to become an Investigative Journalist. You have to be on good terms with people within your field so that you are preferred over other candidates. You should also be on good terms with people from all other walks of life as an aspiring Investigative Journalist, so that they can provide you with vital information during your research.

Most Investigative Journalists are hired on the basis of their portfolio. Start conducting your research about the particular topic that you will feel is important. Conduct interviews, collect documents and statistics and write reports. Not only will you gain experience, but this research will also prove to be a major factor in showcasing your potential to the recruiters.

Working as an Intern/Trainee can do wonders for your career as an Investigative Journalist. You will learn more about the industry and the established code of conduct and ethics. More importantly, you will gain vital experience and develop contacts that can be instrumental in your success.

As an aspiring Investigative Journalist, you need to constantly be on the lookout for topics that might involve information about illegal activities and crime. By staying aware of the happenings around you, you will be able to find topics and people that can provide you with vital information that can make your career as an Investigative Journalist.


Though there aren’t any specific courses in Investigative Journalism in India, you can pursue a Journalism/Mass Communication course and specialize once you start working. For your Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication or Journalism, the Delhi University and the Manipal Institute of Communications, Chennai are great options. Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi offers a great course in Journalism. It offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Radio and TV Journalism. Xavier’s Institute of Communication, Mumbai also offers a great Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication and Journalism. AJK Mass Communication and Research Center, Delhi offers a Master’s of Arts degree in Mass Communication as well as one in Convergent Journalism. 

What are the skills required to become an Investigative Journalist?

Investigative Journalists need to have excellent communication and networking skills. They should be analytical in nature. They also need to be curious and possess excellent investigative skills so that they are able to find the information that is being hidden. Investigative Journalists should be honest, impartial and flexible. They should have the determination to go on despite disappointments and ensure that they do their best to reveal information that is in the interest of the public. They should have a strong sense of justice and should be able to work in a team as well as independently. Investigative Journalists should also have the ability to take up initiatives and need to be courageous in their endeavors.

Is this the right career for me?

Investigative Journalists spend their lives researching discreetly to expose scandals and crimes. The career involves a lot of risk as the constant investigation process creates more enemies for them than friends. There are no regular hours in this career as it involves a lot of travelling and field trips. Investigative Journalists are largely unappreciated for their work until and unless their report gathers momentum and becomes famous. On the other hand, the career involves a lot of adventure and gives the journalist a chance to do good for society. The career can be well paying as well.

This is not the right career for people who are looking for regular jobs with financial stability and no risk. But for people who are not comfortable with leading monotonous lives, and want to lead a life full of adventure and travelling while doing good for the society, this can be a great career option.

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Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams, follow their interests & curiosities and see the opportunities in life's setbacks-- including death itself.