JOURNALISTS write not for themselves (at least we hope not) but for the communities they serve. This is why journalists dig, probe, and ask uncomfortable questions – to unearth stories that are imbued with the public interest.
For the same reason, journalists who are sufficiently armed with critical data must also try to craft compelling narratives. After all, it is in the public’s interest that the public be made interested in these stories. The hunt, the search, and the chase for information is just the first necessary step in a long process. Journalism, after all, is about moving people.
Sheila Coronel, founding executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia University, asks the question in her blog Watchdog-Watcher: What kind of reporting makes an impact?
Coronel cites the case of Pakistan, a country she calls “a cesspool of corruption and a paragon of opacity.” Yet because of excellent and persistent reporting by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan, coupled with saturation coverage by other media, good timing, and even donor pressure, Pakistan is now one of only four countries in the world that makes the tax records of public officials public. Later next month, Pakistan is expected to go further by making tax payments of ALL citizens public.
Coronel says this only shows that persistence, excellent ground work, networking, and good timing can move, not just mountains, but public officials as well. The Philippines also has its success stories, with good investigative reporting causing the downfall of presidents, Supreme Court justices, and other senior officials.
Read Sheila Coronel’s latest blog on how the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan changed government policy in ways no one could have imagined.