Better journalism training a must

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday November 5th, 2013

 THE National will be the first to admit that investigative journalism is not our strongest suit.

So we agree with Treasurer Don Polye that there is an urgent need for this type of journalism to probe issues affecting the country.

But what is investigative journalism?

In general terms, it is a form of journalism in which journalists investigate a single topic of interest, often about crime, political corruption or corporate wrongdoing. 

Most investigative journalism is conducted by newspapers, wire services, and freelance journalists and broadcasters, radio or television. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. In many regards investigative journalism is an ongoing affair. 

A reporter may make use of one or more of these tools for a single story or a series of stories: Analysis of documents, such as lawsuits and other legal documents, tax records, government reports, regulatory reports and corporate financial filings; public records; investigations of technical issues, including scrutiny of government and business practices and their effects; research into social and legal issues; interviews with sources as well as, in some instances, interviews with whistleblowers.

A good investigative journalist or one who specialises in writing in-depth and extended pieces, is someone who has long experience working in news gathering environments such newspapers, magazines, televisions stations and radio. 

One of the traits that any aspiring investigative reporter must possess is a bloodhound’s nose for news and issues of interest whether thought-provoking or controversial.

These are issues that are important to the greater good of the community. 

In Papua New Guinea, as Polye points out, there is a lack of investigative journalism, the type of hard-hitting exposés that serve a purpose beyond the mundane and regimented news feeds that are the norm. 

“I’d like all of you (the media) to step up. Honestly speaking you have to meet international standards of reporting. You’re doing less investigative journalism in PNG,”he said.

It is interesting that Polye should make such remarks when there have been several major stories broken this year, mostly regarding allegations of corruption and mismanagement in government and state entities. 

Whether it is the lack of qualified journalists or the absence of effective training, this country does need a crop of news reporters who do not simply accept press statements and party lines but ask the tough questions and probe for the real story behind many news bites.

While Polye may be critical of the current trend in journalism in PNG, he and his colleagues in government could make things a lot easier by opening their files to journalists to probe issues of public concern. 

In particular, the treasurer should issue a directive to his department to allow journalists access to their files so that proper facts and figures are obtained by journalists on issues such as the controversial K10 million that was paid for car hire.

The Government should increase funding for journalism schools at the University of PNG and the Divine Word University so that students can be better trained and equipped with the knowledge to tackle specialised fields such as investigative journalism.

PNG is a hotbed for investigative reporting as crime and corruption is perpetrated in almost broad daylight. 

The only problem is there are no reports that can expose this malfeasance on the scale that an investigative report quoting relevant facts, figures and individuals can do. The last thing the PNG media industry needs is for foreign media doing our job for us.