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Story-Based Inquiry: A manual for investigative journalists


his manual provides a guide to basic methods and techniques of investigative journalism, and it consciously fills a gap in the literature of the profession. The majority of investigativemanuals devote a lot of space to the subject of where to find information. They assume that once a reporter finds the information he or she seeks, he or she will be able to compose a viable story. We do not share that assumption. We do not think that the only issue is finding information. Instead, we think the core task is telling a story. That leads to the basic methodological innovation ofthis manual: We use stories as the cement which holds together every step of the investigative process, from conception to research, writing, quality control and publication. We also call this approach hypothesis-based inquiry, to underline that a story is only a hypothesis until it is verified. By verifying or disproving a story, a reporter can more easily see which information to seek, and how tointerpret it. An editor or publisher can more easily assess the feasibility, costs, rewards and progress of the investigative project. As research progresses, the reporter or investigative team will be organising their material for composition, and composing specific parts of the final story. This, in turn, will facilitate
This project was carried out with UNESCO support. The authors areresponsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts and opinions expressed herein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit UNESCO. The designations employed and the presentation of the material throughout this book do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area, or of itsauthorities or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. graphic designer / Anne Barcat


quality control, and enable closer insight into whether the story meets legal and ethical criteria. At the end of the process, the result will be a story that can be summed up in a few hard-hitting sentences – a story that can be promoted and remembered. We do not claim to have inventedhypothesis-based inquiry. Similar methods have been used in business consulting, the social sciences, and police work. What we have done is to work through their implications for the journalistic process, and for the goals of investigative journalism – to reform a world that generates useless, needless suffering, or conversely, that ignores available solutions to its problems. This has been a longand collective project. The catalysts were Rana Sabbagh and Pia Thordsen, who conceived and outlined the idea of a manual of basic investigative processes, and asked me to contribute. For me, it was the perfect moment, and a continuation of my work at the Institut français de Presse of the Université de Paris II/Panthéon-Assas, where for the past ten years I have benefited simultaneously fromthe company of generous and committed colleagues, and enthusiastic masterslevel students. They allowed me to field-test many of the methods advocated in this manual on a scale beyond the activities of an individual reporter. In 2001, I began what I thought would be a sabbatical at INSEAD, the global business school. A temporary research position evolved into an adjunct professorship, and moreimportant, enabled me to benefit from the insights and experience of colleagues like Yves Doz, Ludo Van der Heyden, Kevin Kaiser, and others. Their influence on this manual is indirect but powerful. These scholars helped me to think at a more abstract level about media practices, and to consider how processes can be improved to create greater value, including in journalism. Like my co-authors, I was...
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