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Asia Lacks an Effective Investigative Journalism Network, Expert Says

While investigative reporting has exploded around much of the world in recent years, Asia still lacks networks of investigative journalists and nonprofit groups to support them. This was the view of David Kaplan, Executive Director of the Global Investigative Journalists Network, during a talk at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre on March 28.


Photo by Kevin Dharmawan

“This is why I’m here in Asia,” Kaplan explained. “Our network is 11 years old and serves as a secretariat for member nonprofit organizations around the world. But there’s little in Asia, so we need to do better.”

The GIJN’s network of investigative journalism organizations produces stories, conducts training, provides resources, and encourages the creation of similar nonprofit groups. Created in 2003 in Copenhagen, it now has over 90 member organizations in 40 countries. In order to join, a group must be a nonprofit or a trust, not a media company.

Kaplan described investigative journalism as a form of advanced reporting that requires a different mindset from that used in daily news reporting. “You have to think more critically about the issues. It also involves looking at the accountability of power and authority,” he said. “You also need to do more reporting and spend more time developing a systematic approach, which often includes data, number crunching, and visualization.”

But Kaplan cautioned that it should not be confused with data journalism, which “mines” hidden stories from the wealth of data available on the Internet. “Data people are forgetting the journalism,” he argued. “Reporters need to confirm the data and go to the source, to test it. Data has to be integrated into the story, but it’s the story that’s the driver. Similarly, reporting based purely on leaks is not really investigative journalism.”

Kaplan expects to see a lot more investigative journalism in the years to come. “This is going to be its golden age, because we have more tools and techniques than ever before, thanks to technology,” he said.

Those interested in connecting with the network can attend GIJN’s various conferences, sign up for its listserv of over 600 journalists, or check out its resources section for grants and fellowships. Its website also has a series of free manuals and case studies on how to do investigative reporting.