While scoops and investigative reporting is generally very important in journalism everywhere, there is no country which sets it more into praxis than the UK. France has bright heads enlightening the newspaper readers with intellectual essays, the US is devoted to not being-biased accompanied by double, triple or even better quadrouple fact checking, Germany is best in the Feuilleton dedicated to cultural reviews, and the UK is very much into investigative reporting.
Investigative reporting is with no doubt affected by digitalisation, so recently my aim was to pin down how investigative reporters makes use of the internet - read more about it here. First, you might think that an investigation isn’t able to use an open medium like the internet, because it needs to be done secretly in the background before coming out in the open. Well, not anymore. Crowd sourced approaches make it possible for journalists to get much more information than they reveal.
Paul Lewis, who just was named reporter of the year at the prestigious British Press Award for uncovering the involvement of the police in the dead of Ian Tomlinson during G20, says about his use of Twitter: “Twitter is not just a website and not micro-blogging, it is an entirely different medium – like email, fax ore even newspapers. The way in which information travels on Twitter – the shape of it – is different to anything that we’ve previously known.”
He admits that at first he was sceptic about Twitter, but now thinks that the value you get from people knowing that you are working on a story, trumps the slight disadvantage that your rivals also know. Furthermore, while we had coffee downstairs in the canteen of the Guardian, he made a plea for getting real: “There are not too many rivals out there. Who is the competition?”
Ruth Gledhill, who is not only a long-standing journalist and the religious correspondent of The Times but also impressively smart and sympathetic, drew my attention to another point. The fact that the internet makes investigations available for a long time and a global audience while the paper is far more local and thrown away on the next day anyhow, makes a difference.
The internet makes documents and sources available online, while before people had to believe the journalist. Observing how the abuse scandal of the catholic church came into light, she says: “Many of these cases we are hearing about now are historic, and I can’t help thinking that the internet made a big difference. Documents were becoming available online.”
And then Ruth Gedhill suddenly said this sentence, and I think both of us were a bit baffled by its evidence.
“Would the Holocaust have happened if there would have been the internet? Could the evidences have been denied in the same way?”
According to documents which were meanwhile declassified under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998, American and British military intelligence authorities have been aware of Hitler’s “Final Solution” plan for the “eradication” of the Jews of Europe as early as 1942. Could the Nazis have continued their horror that long if these documents had been available online?