Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism is a primary source of information. Most investigative journalism is conducted by newspapers, wire services, and freelance journalists. Practitioners sometimes use the terms "watchdog journalism" or "accountability reporting."
An investigative reporter may make use of one or more of these tools, among others, on a single story:
Analysis of documents, such as lawsuits and other legal documents, tax records, government reports, regulatory reports, and corporate financial filings
Databases of public records
Investigation of technical issues, including scrutiny of government and business practices and their effects
University of Missouri journalism professor Steve Weinberg defined investigative journalism as: "Reporting, through one's own initiative and work product, matters of importance to readers, viewers, or listeners." In many cases, the subjects of the reporting wish the matters under scrutiny to remain undisclosed. There are currently university departments for teaching investigative journalism. Conferences are conducted presenting peer reviewed research into investigative journalism.
British media theorist Hugo de Burgh (2000) states that: "An investigative journalist is a man or woman whose profession it is to discover the truth and to identify lapses from it in whatever media may be available. The act of doing this generally is called investigative journalism and is distinct from apparently similar work done by police, lawyers, auditors, and regulatory bodies in that it is not limited as to target, not legally founded and closely connected to publicity."
Julius Chambers of the New York Tribune had himself committed to the Bloomingdale Asylum in 1872, and his account led to the release of twelve patients who were not mentally ill, a reorganization of the staff and administration, and, eventually, to a change in the lunacy laws; this later led to the publication of the book A Mad World and Its Inhabitants (1876)
Mark Dowie and Carolyn Marshall's 1977 Mother Jones investigation of fatal dangers in the Ford Pinto automobile
John Pilger, an Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker, collaborated with filmmaker David Munro and photographer Eric Piper on the impact of the Khmer Rouge on the Cambodian people in a report for the British tabloid Daily Mirror and the documentary Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia (1979) for Associated Television; this was followed a year later by Cambodia: Year One; both documentaries won United Nations Media Peace Prizes After Year Zero, funds were raised in support of Cambodia
Turkish journalist Uğur Mumcu of Cumhuriyet had been involved in several high profile and sensitive investigations before his murder in 1993, such as the Kurdish Worker's Party's ties to intelligence, Iranian support for the Kurdish Hezbollah, and even the background of Pope John Paul II's assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca
Anna Politkovskaya's reporting in Chechnya and on the Russian treatment of the Chechen people led to many investigative reports published in Novaya Gazeta, such as the poisoning of children; her work was widely recognized by international organizations before she was murdered in 2006; today an award in her name honors other women who report under circumstances of great danger
Video of the 2010 Logan Symposium at University of California Berkeley's Consequences of Investigative Reporting" panel, in which reporters from the Sahara Reporters, the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern, The Washington Post, The Las Vegas Review-Journal, and The El Paso Times talk about the dangers investigative reporters face; their experiences range from threat to life and limb for reporting on corruption in Africa, to subpoenas aimed at a journalism professor and his students for attempting to bring to light a miscarriage of justice; a Pulitzer Prize winner describes reporting on national security as her sources face internal inquisitions; a veteran reporter in Las Vegas talks about taking on casino moguls and organized crime; while a reporter covering the Mexican border explains how she has survived the violent reality of the undeclared war on our border, April 2010
Typewriter Guerillas: Closeups of 20 Top Investigative Reporters, by J.C. Behrens (paperback) 1977.
Raising Hell: Straight Talk with Investigative Journalists, by Ron Chepesiuk, Haney Howell, and Edward Lee (paperback) 1997
Investigative Reporting: A Study in Technique (Journalism Media Manual), by David Spark, (paperback) 1999.
Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism That Changed the World, John Pilger, ed. (paperback) 2005.