Journalism done in the public interest is essential to promoting an open, just and accountable democracy. These words were echoed at the just ended Training Workshop for Mid Career Reporters organised and facilitated by INK Centre for Investigative Journalism in partnership with the American Embassy this past week.
Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy Timothy Smith said investigative journalism is one area that is at the centre of attention at the US embassy. “Give people credible information and I assure you the nation will be safe,” he promised. He said he was excited for the future of journalism in the country because of the unwavering support from INK.
“With our support, INK will live up to their mandate which is to work with media houses and even go as far as supporting them with grants to uplift journalists who show interest in investigations be it for radio, television or print. This may include posting interns internationally to groom them into better reporters,” Smith said.
“Investigative journalism is not receiving the attention it deserves and it concerns us at INK that news desks are steadily shutting down worldwide. This to a large extent is caused by lack of coordination and that not enough desks invest enough towards investigations. I do acknowledge though that financial constraints are a reality in a lot of newsrooms,” said Managing Partner at INK Ntibinyane Ntibinyane. When sharing his local experience, Ntibinyane said financial constraints have somehow misdirected the motive of this type of journalism to profit. “There is no one to blame for the declining quality of our stories but ourselves as journalists and editors. In turn this has created a huge trust deficit which we really need to work hard to restore,” Ntibinyane said.
South African Sunday Times Newspaper’s Senior Investigative Reporter Piet Rampedi said to succeed at doing investigative pieces journalists have to adopt a very open minded approach and know how to separate what is fact from opinion, rumour or speculation. This type of reporting solely depends on whether or not there is proof, everything needs to be evidence based,” he advised. He also said it is worth noting that it should take time to break the stories as investigations by their nature take time because they require a lot of digging. “When you work on an investigative piece do not expect the story to be ready for print within a few days, one needs to fully appreciate the dynamics,” he said. Rampedi said journalists have to consider the credibility of their publication and that of themselves as professionals. “Fight the edge to break a story because the last thing that any journalist wants is to be compelled to right an apology headline as their readers will take a long time to forget the mistake,” he said.
“The legal framework in Botswana is inadequate to support investigative journalism,” said Sunday Standard Editor Outsa Mokone. Mokone also said the need to pass laws on the right to information is long overdue and protection of whistleblowers and journalistic sources is highly needed. “Journalists should also put fear aside because it could potentially sideline their work. Some investigations I admit may leave one feeling like their safety and that of their families may be comprised, but such are what I call the occupational hazards that come with the job,” Mokone concluded.