Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Difficult Problem: Deciding What To Investigate

Talk to the Newsroom: Investigations Editor Matthew Purdy, New York Times Online (May 14, 2007):
Q. I've always been interested to know how you decide WHAT to investigate? After all, you can't investigate everything — yet many things warrant investigation. I also understand that investigative reporting is an expensive process, taking reporters and editors away from other stories. For some news organization, it seems a luxury/indulgence they can't afford. So what's the calculus, the criteria, at The Times?

— Thomas Hackett

A. Your question is a good one because deciding what to investigate is often the most difficult decision. ...

Exactly! See Assignment No. 1, Assignments Page, Fact Investigation Course (Fall 2006):
I believe it is important for students of investigation to experience the "agony of exploratory investigation" for themselves.

My experience with prior incarnations of this course shows that the process of identifying a suitable investigation topic can be both arduous and time-consuming. Beginnings of any kind are usually hard. The beginnings of investigations are no exception to this rule: in the initial phases of investigation -- phases that are usually exploratory in nature -- everything often seems to be a bloomin' buzzin' confusion.

See also Beginnings Are Hard: Notes on Starting an Investigation
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