I am not a journalist. I am a professor of engineering and a scientist with administrative experience from my university service ventures as a Dean, Provost and Chancellor. During my 15-year tour in administration, I came across many types of journalists and forms of journalism. While all of the reporters spoke about their interest in informing the public accurately, their work outcome varied from sensationalizing an issue to expand their readership, to opinion founded on their organization's agenda, to sincere effort in informing the public, to in-depth investigation to unearth greed and provide checks and balances, to deep interest in addressing organizational corruption. During the past twenty years we have seen a blurring of the boundaries of the journalistic spectrum at the expense of the reader's ability to understand the validity of the journalistic argument and the integrity of the statements in the printed articles.
The biggest confusion that we all have experienced lately, especially as part of this year's elections, is the difference between Investigative Journalism and Leak Journalism. Since I am not an expert, I looked for credible sources to help inform my self. Surprisingly, I found a stunning distinction between the two and I want to share what I learned with you. In David Kaplan's book on Global Investigative Journalism: Strategies for Support investigative journalism is simply defined as "critical and in-depth journalism". A look at stories that win top awards for investigative journalism attest to the standards of research and reporting that the profession aspires to.
According to the Center for News Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) at Columbia University, "Leak journalism is not investigative reporting. An investigation can begin from a leak, but journalists must do their own digging, verify information and provide context. Unless they do so, their reports will be distorted and incomplete. They will also allow themselves to be used to manipulate public opinion and to advance the agenda of individuals, rather than that of public interest". The document goes on to say that serious investigative reporters do not reveal secrets just for the thrill of doing so or the prospect of winning an award. They do not dig for dirt just to sell newspapers.
Since there is no independent review for the articles that are printed by the various media, as it happens in science, the quality of the printed articles depends on the editors. I wish that some of the more senior editors would understand the difference between the two types of journalism and would ensure that their investigative reports have the suggested attributes described above so that they can provide the readership with quality work.