CHAPTER 7: Training tomorrow's investigative
243. Many witnesses told us about the skills
required to be an investigative journalist. Some told us that
investigative journalists needed unique characteristics in addition
to those of a regular journalist, for example, more determination
to continue with a line of enquiry which may take a long time
or be difficult to uncover. There is also a question about whether
such attributes can be taught.
244. John Mair, Senior Lecturer in Broadcast
Journalism at Coventry University, described investigative journalists
as a "strange breed", saying that:
"Investigative journalists ... can be quite
difficult people. They are good journalists, they are accurate,
but they have two or three qualities that make them stand out
... have a sense of mischief. They like to cause mischief, and
they are also bloody determined. You will not put them off the
scent. I am not sure how you teach that. I suspect that people
like that will still be coming forward because there is oneor
severalin every generation."
Mr Alan Rusbridger, Editor, The Guardian,
appeared to agree, at least in part, with this analysis, saying
that "investigative reporters' brains are wired differently."
245. However, Mr Paul Lewis, Special Projects
Editor, The Guardian, did not agree with his Editor's analysis
that investigative journalists were different from other kinds
of journalists, saying that:
"Each investigative journalist has their own
moral compass, and it will be different in each case. As flattering
as it may be, I do not buy this argument that we are a breed apart.
Some are obsessive, you know, some are probably a bit lazy too.
What is interesting is that I think all investigative journalists
have very different characters."
246. Paul Lashmar, investigative journalist and
Lecturer in Journalism from Brunel University, described the teachable
skills needed to be an investigative journalist, saying that:
"They have to have a very good grasp of the law. They need
functional journalism skills; they do not have to be great writers.
Persistence is a key part of it. The determination to carry through
where others do not is quite a clearly definable element of the
Mr Stephen J Adler, Editor-in-Chief, Thomson Reuters, agreed,
"There is the ability simply to stick to something.
There is a good amount of instinct involved and there is an awful
lot of specialised intelligence to know how to read something
to take you to something else and of course to know how to get
information from people who might be reluctant initially to give
247. Given the technological changes which are
occurring, investigative journalists will increasingly need to
be adept in using digital technology, particularly social networking
tools and analytic tools.
248. We welcome the investment in the training
of journalists made by broadcasters. John McVay, the Chief Executive
of the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact), for
example, told us that some broadcasters were working with Skillset,
the industry body which supports skills and training for the UK
In particular, we became aware during the inquiry of Channel 4's
recently increased commitment to training, and we welcome its
Chief Executive, David Abraham's recent announcement at the Oxford
Media Convention in January 2012, that new contracts for the production
of Dispatches "are to provide paid work and mentoring as
part of the Channel 4 Investigative Journalism Training Scheme."
We also note the BBC's investment in training through its academy
249. In the newspaper industry we note that there
has been a decline in the number of training opportunities available
to aspiring journalists. This is partly because local newspapers
no longer have the resources available to provide training, largely
as a result of financial pressures and a reduction in staff numbers.
World in Action Editor and Executive Producer, Ray Fitzwalter,
said: "The training courses that there used to be in local
newspapers ... do not exist anymore."
Those wishing to be journalists often have to be prepared to work
for free at local news organisations in order to develop work
experience and try to find work.
250. We have heard about the increasing use of
internships as a means for prospective journalists to gain relevant
work experience. In his evidence, Mr Edmund Curran OBE, Member
of the Newspaper Society, made this clear: "There are increasinglyand
I am not so sure it is a great thinginternships. I think
it is almost getting journalism on the cheap. But obviously if
young people are being trained and they cannot find a post, they
are prepared to accept something less just to get a foot in the
door and get going."
We have also heard concerns that projects where student journalists
work on stories without pay, have increased the competition in
an already competitive marketplace and that this runs the risk
of squeezing out opportunities for people who try to earn a living
from investigative reporting.
251. We welcome the investment made in training
journalists by the whole media and encourage continued investment
in this area, especially in digital technology skills. In particular
we appreciate the financial pressures facing all media organisations,
especially the local newspaper industry but we encourage local
newspapers, wherever possible, to provide both paid and voluntary
opportunities for aspiring journalists to gain practical experience
in local news organisations.
252. We welcome the opportunities which internships
offer but these should not be considered as an alternative to
paid employment opportunities for journalists.
253. We encourage all media companies to offer
training opportunities. In those media industries where there
is a regulator, the regulator should consider whether there are
circumstances in which they should mandate the offering of training
THE ROLE OF UNIVERSITIES
254. There are now approximately 60 university
courses in journalism in the UK. Ray Fitzwalter mentioned that
he had "counted up that there are 60 British media schools
... and those are ones that have some editorial content or are
devoted to editorial matters."
We have heard how universities increasingly provide the training
ground for aspiring journalists which used to be offered by local
media. Gavin MacFadyen, Visiting Professor, City University and
Director, Centre for Investigative Journalism, for example, spoke
about local media training, saying: "When that dried up ...
it was passed to universities to try to make up for this difference."
We have heard about three in particular which specialise in investigative
journalismCity University, Strathclyde and Sheffield.
255. Ray Fitzwalter argued that there are now
too many university courses in journalism and not enough jobs,
commenting that "we could probably do without half a dozen
universities and not feel any loss whatever."
256. Certain universities focus on offering practical
training opportunities in investigative journalism for their students,
both in the form of placements and through innovative schemes
such as the Sheffield Record project at Sheffield University.
Several witnesses have praised the important role played by universities
in delivering investigative journalism in projects such as these.
Gavin MacFadyen told us that Strathclyde University had started
a project based on the Innocence Project from a university in
Chicago which had encouraged law students to re-examine the cases
of convicted prisoners on death row. The Innocence Project at
Strathclyde University used journalism students to re-examine
the cases of convicted criminals with a view to finding and overturning
any wrongful convictions.
257. We recognise the important role played
by universities in training investigative journalists and encourage
the Government to support these educational facilities in providing
useful and practical training opportunities for aspiring journalists.
CHARITABLE MENTORING AND SPONSORSHIP
258. An additional route through which journalists
can acquire the skills they require to operate and launch their
own journalistic projects is through charitable sponsorship and
mentoring. It is, of course, essential that there are safeguards
to ensure that the donor has, and is seen to have, no influence
on the investigations.
259. An example of this we encountered during
the present inquiry was the recently established Journalism Foundation,
an organisation set up with a grant from the Lebedev family as
an independent charitable foundation.
260. Its Chief Executive Officer, Simon Kelner,
described the three very different projects the Journalism Foundation
has decided to support in the first instance:
"In one we are establishing the first really
practical training courses for journalists in Tunisia ... Of course,
what the journalists there want to know is very basic stuff. How
do you sell newspapers? How do you sell advertising? How do you
do an edition structure? ... On the other side is a project in
Stoke-on-Trent, which was set up by a very public-spirited guy
just over a year ago ... He started a website called pitsnpots.co.uk,
which is terrific. It covers local politics in a very fair and
impartial way ... We are helping him to build the reach of his
website with funding and resources ... The third project, which
is very much in gestation at the moment, is based in Tanzania,
where another very public-spirited guy, with help from DfID, has
set up two Swahili newspapers in outlying areas where there have
been no local news networks at all ... We are going out there
to see how we can help him."
261. Another example of charitable sponsorship
of investigative journalism was explained to us by Iain Overton,
Managing Editor, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as described
earlier in this report (paragraph 205).
262. We welcome the establishment of charitable
sponsorship and mentoring bodies, and hope to see this model replicated
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