Journalism

The Journalist as Detective

A journalist is like a detective, which is what I’ve always wanted to be.

Journalists have license to scour the internet — facebook, whitepages, spokeo, twitter, youtube, wordpress, blogger — to find potential sources. “openbook.com” also allows searches of facebook status updates, although the service doesn’t always seem to work perfectly. Google itself can yield much information, including archives of webpages once thought deleted. For if it’s on the internet, nothing is hidden.

While finding people’s telephone numbers in the phone book and contacting them would be considered unscrupulous for most, the journalist’s job necessitates looking up the addresses and phone numbers of donors from a campaign list and calling each one to confirm his or her contribution. Journalists can stalk people on tumblr, LinkedIn and whatever website a source has to learn about them and find their contact information. Journalists must also be well informed and spend the time to sift through years of news coverage on an individual or an issue.

Yet the best information is still gained from personal interviews. Thousands could tweet about an event, but only a conversation can bring out the true character of the situation. The journalist also needs a credible source, not the random thoughts of any person.

The internet is a powerful tool for accessing the minds of millions. But to use it effectively the journalist needs the mind of the detective, who reads between the lines and below the surface, to reveal the truth.

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