An Inspective look into Investigative Journalism


Abranette Barry, Blueprint Staff


This is Orouba Barakat and her 23-year-old daughter Hala Barakat, on September 23 Al Jazeera news source reported an article entitled “Orouba Barakat[and]daughter Halla found killed in Istanbul”.  The article reported that they both had been murdered due to sustained stab wounds. Their limp, lifeless bodies were then rolled up into rugs and sprinkled with lime detergent in order to hide the already rotting stench of their decaying bodies. The only crime they committed to receive such inhumane treatment was the use of their voices.

Al Jazeera alluded that they had been murdered due to the fact that they had both been outspoken critics of the Syrian regime. Hala was an editor at a newspaper outlet that opposed the regime and her mother, who was an activist herself, had published extensive articles detailing the deplorable acts of torture within Syrian prisons. They were killed for speaking out, and unfortunately, their story isn’t a unique one. They are one of many investigative journalists who have died attempting to bring truth to the public eye. Many high school students do not understand or fully the importance journalists, specifically investigative journalist, play in our daily lives and the threats they face within our society.

Investigative journalism is defined by the Dutch-Flemish Association for Investigative Journalism as “critical and thorough journalism”. The Flemish association uses critical to imply that the information presented would not have existed if it not for journalistic intervention.  They sue thorough to insinuate that the information provided was achieved through a prodigious amount of work whether it be measured through quantitative or qualitative means. Using these definitions three types of investigative journalism can be discerned:

  1. It’s used as a way to uncover scandals aimed at detecting violations of laws, or decency norms, by organizations or individuals.
  2. It’s used as a mean to review the policies or functioning of a government, businesses or other organizations.
  3. It’s Used to Draw attention to social, economic, political and cultural trends aimed at detecting changes in society.

Investigative journalism is used as a tool by a journalist to solve problems within all societies. As Investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Lippmann said in his collection of essays, Liberty and the News, “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.”

But with advantageous work comes many disadvantages and criticism. Unlike Halla and Oruba, American citizens have the luxury of living in a country wherein freedom of the press is an accepted norm. However, the public’s view of media is changing. The president of the United States once tweeted that “…the fake news media was the enemy of the American people.”  Trump’s tweets against the press shouldn’t be taken lightly because they seek to exacerbate the public’s already negative view of journalism.  The Chicago Tribune reported in April of 2016 that only 6% percent of Americans surveyed stated that they had confidence in the media, further proving the unrest and dissatisfaction the public feels towards the press.

The Chicago Tribune further states that Americans are more likely to rely on news that is up-to-date, concise, sorting expert sources or documents, and transparent. This is why I believe through increasing support for investigative journalism public’s trust and interest in the media can be renewed. Holding journalists accountable for more critical and thorough work will dilute the public perception of dishonest media. This will allow people to understand that investigative journalism and journalism as a whole isn’t a hoax or even just a career option for some, but a necessity for maintaining a democracy for all.