On a visit to Poynter earlier this week Bob Woodward of Watergate fame reflected on journalism and digital media and made the point that technology on its own is nothing without high quality, probing journalism.
Nowadays high quality, probing journalism involves harnessing digital tools and using them to mine vast amounts of data as well as the virtues and skills Woodward deployed in his day.
There’s no better recent example than the work of Seattle Times reporter Michael J Berens whose tenacious approach earned him the $20,000 Bingham Prize for investigative journalism.
Berens produced a six-part series that dealt with the treatment and exploitation of elderly and frail people in Washington State’s adult family homes. Along the way he filed 50 state record requests, acquired and then analysed thousands of pages of health service documents and interviewed 250 people.
You can read a fuller account of the investigation here and if you’re interested in learning more about data journalism then Elena Egawhary at the BBC in west London is a fount of wisdom on the subject.
On this topic, however, Woodward gets the last word with his acerbic world view: “I get up in the morning and I ask the question: ‘What are the bastards hiding?’…You get at the truth at night, the lies during the day.”
- Data expert moves on from ‘telephone journalism’ (guardian.co.uk)