New media and investigative journalism

Kick-started my mid-career lectures at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism for 2011 on an appropriate topic – investigative journalism and new media. In 2008, Lasantha Wickremetunge, was the senior most journalist in Sri Lanka to be murdered. He and his soi disant paper, the Sunday Leader, pretty much defined English language investigative reporting in Sri Lanka. His killers are still at large. Close colleagues of Lasantha tell me that he did not use new media at all, and perhaps didn’t believe in it either. I wonder what he would think of the way journalism as a profession is changing on account of technology, and investigative journalism in particular is changing on account of new media – both in terms of how it is conducted to the manner in which searing reports can be disseminated and collaboratively added on to by readers as well.

My presentation nodded to Mashable’s take on how social media has changed investigative journalism. But I also used a number of examples from Groundviews, and my own work, to flag examples where information visualisation, reaching out to readers and doing web research generated a number of insightful stories into current events that if nothing else, where ideas for mainstream media to pick up on. We covered how to create media on platforms like blogs, how to use a tool like timetoast.com to visualise a story and bring out key points, how to use Google Maps to show trends otherwise hidden in episodic reporting of events, how to use social media to reach out to and engage readers, and how digital media could aid field based investigative reporting.

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