So, how has the development of digital tools enabled journalists to investigate around the world without leaving the newsroom?
It is obvious technology has changed the world over the last few years, but just how has it changed the world? Well, it has completely transformed the world of investigative journalism. Social media is to thank for that. There are now new and easier ways to create and receive all the news, gossip and data you could possibly ever want or need.
The biggest investigative breakthrough in history was the 2016 Panama Papers leak. As soon as the information was released, the world went wild. Yet, according to bustle.com, there were “no physical meetings” between those investigating and those being investigated. More than a hundred media publications around the world, organised by the Washington International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, worked together to release the information. Without social media, being able to hold those in power responsible for their actions would have been nearly impossible, or simply taken years longer.
After the invention of blogging in 1999, social media began to explode. By 2006, Facebook and Twitter both became available to users throughout the world. These sites remain some of the most popular social networks on the Internet. Other sites like Tumblr, Spotify, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest began popping up to fill specific social networking niches. (Hendricks, 2013) Not only is social media used to investigate and talk to people, but it also provides us with more information we could ever know what to do with. Laura Donaldson from Heat magazine said: “As well as helping us to investigate stories it also serves as the story in a lot of cases – massive news stories can come from a single Instagram upload or Tweet post so it gives us even more content to write about. Instead of being an accompaniment to a story, celebrity’s social media accounts now are the story.”
Difficulties of social media
However, despite the recent breakthrough in investigative journalism, journalists efforts are not received kindly by the public: Only half (49%) of the those polled agreed ‘the public still has a real interest in investigative journalism.’ 39% of the public polled state that journalists aren’t of high enough quality, as do 29% of those media opinion formers. (This is according to YouGov.) Publicists are also missing out due to the prevalence of social media, as Donaldson says: “Twitter and Instagram are also normally the first point of call for celebrities to speak out about or deny a story so you don’t need to go through a publicist so much – you get their opinion right then and there.” What helps the world of journalism seems to help some but hinder others.
Donaldson finishes by saying: “I think social media has helped in the sense that it’s made things easier, information more accessible, pictures more readily available. I do sometimes think though it’s made online news writing turn into a whole monster of it’s own and the rush to get copy up and on Twitter before someone else or another publication can lead to mistakes and inaccuracies which defeats the purpose of what journalism is all about.”