Dissertation proposal

For my dissertation I am proposing to research the alleged decline of investigative journalism and the implications it can have.

My research will include using resources such as our library and Moodle to use services like Ebsco and UK Newsstand.

My initial idea for my title is, Are investigative journalists still the custodians of conscience?

Having viewed a video of investigative journalist Seymour Hersh speaking at a journalist school in America in 2013, I believe it would be advantageous to look at his work on the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam that won him the 1970 Pulitzer Prize.

It may also benefit me to look at his books Chain of Command, The Dark Side of Camelot and The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House and his writing in 2005-2006 about Iran to see how his work has differed.

Reading the book All The Presidents Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein could help with research as well.

Another step would be to contact Pip Clothier to ask him about modern investigative journalism.

Books that I will be, and already am, reading include Lifting the Lid: A Guide to Investigative Research and Investigative Reporting: A study in technique.

There will be reference to the Leveson report and the constraints it has put on modern journalism, reference will also be made to certain freedoms that members of the press enjoy due to the nature of their work.

The reporting of the Hillsborough disaster from the day it happened and subsequently in the days, months and years beyond will show how dreadful mistakes can be made, and the effect these can have on journalism and ordinary people.

One of the questions I could ask would be if anything similar to Watergate could happen now thanks to investigative journalism, or is it still the highest form of journalistic practice?

I will also research such constraints as financial pressures and the overriding power of business and governmental politics and the effect they can have on investigations.

Speaking to our librarian Carol Wright will be invaluable for research.

Using the Bob facility to find programmes regarding certain subjects will also be very useful.

I will also refer to reading material that I looked at for my essay about press freedom like the book There is no such thing as a free press, by Mick Hume, contacting the author could also be very important.

Researching journalism law, particularly defamation of character, gagging orders and super injunctions taken out in famous cases, will definitely help me to form an argument and pose questions that need answering.

Seeking advice from Nicky Harley will help me to understand the implications of journalism law and my research about it moving forward, my McNae’s book of journalism law will undoubtedly form part of my research as well.

Press coverage of things such as the Fifa scandal, the investigation of doping at the Olympic Games and reporting of the 1984 Miner’s strike can also provide examples of both sides of my argument.

The case of Jack the Ripper, as I have shown before, can also show very valuable lessons of the effect of good investigative journalism, the Panama Papers case will also form an argument that maybe investigative journalism is not in decline?

Google scholar can be very helpful, especially when researching particular cases.

It will be important to stay away from cases such as those involving people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden because, as pointed out to me, this is about investigative journalism, not whistle blowing cases.

The phone hacking scandal and subsequent closure of the News of the World will raise the question of trust in the press, and what we, as journalists, can do to restore public faith in the industry.

The subject of the effect of social media on journalism could also be taken into account if it can be established that it has any sort of consequences on investigative journalism, either positive or negative.

The core of my dissertation will be about whether investigative journalism is indeed in decline, and, if it is, what are the reasons behind its decline?

There is no shortage of theories about the state of the press today and investigative journalism in particular, and what contributed to its downfall.

Is it because of phone hacking, corruption or lower standards than those displayed by the likes of Woodward and Bernstein?

Do recent investigations like the Panama Papers, the Fifa scandal and doping at the Olympic Games show that, actually, investigative journalism is not in as much of a mess as some would maybe believe?

If it is on the decline, how does it clean up its battered image and regain the trust of the people we serve?

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Reflection- Woodward and Bernstein

This session obviously had a lot about the Watergate scandal and how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein brought down President Richard Nixon.

Both Woodward and Bernstein have gone on to become authors in their own right as well, Woodward has written 16 books on American politics, 12 of them have been bestseller’s, but both are obviously indelibly linked with Watergate.

These two investigative reporters gave possibly the finest piece of journalism to the world, with the possible exception of Michael Buerke’s Ethiopia report in 1984, to bring down Nixon.

At the time they were relatively obscure reporters and Watergate was originally meant to be just another story.

The work they did on Watergate earned a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the Washington Post in 1973.

Gene Roberts, the former executive editor of The Philadelphia Enquirer and former managing editor of the New York Times has called their work on Watergate “Maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.”

Apart from Watergate Woodward is also known for being the Post’s main reporter for their coverage of the September 11 attacks in 2001, coverage which led to another Pulitzer Prize for the paper for National Reporting.

Bernstein went on to work for ABC News 1980 to 1984 and was first to report during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that Ariel Sharon had “deceived the cabinet about the real intention of the operation- to drive the Palestinians out of Lebanon, not to establish a 25-Kilometer security zone, North from the border.”

Reflection- Joseph Pulitzer

Our session about Joseph Pulitzer was very eye-opening. Obviously we knew about the Pulitzer Prize but this session also told us about the discovery of ‘Yellow Journalism’ which propounded the idea of mass circulation of newspapers which depended on advertising income.

It also appealed to readers with several forms of news, entertainment and advertising.

I’ve also learnt that the Pulitzer Prizes were established in 1917 after he bequeathed money to Columbia university and that they recognize achievement in the fields of journalism and photography but also literature, poetry, history, music and drama.

His bequest also saw the opening of the Columbia School of Journalism in 1912.

Yellow journalism was actually caused by the competition between his New York World and William Randolph Hirst’s New York Journal in the 1890’s.

He is also known for crusading against corruption and big business and he was a Democratic congressman 1885-1886.

He also helped to ensure that the Statue of Liberty stayed in New York.

Pulitzer bought the St. Louis Dispatch and the St. Louis Post in 1879 and merged them together as the St. Louis Post- Dispatch.

With this he developed his role as a champion of the ordinary man-on-the-street with exposes and a hard-hitting populist approach.

He introduced ‘New-Journalism’ to his papers in the 1880’s and became a leading national figure in the Democratic party which is what led to his election to congress.