From Ian Burrell’s fantastic piece in the Independent, “Investigations thriving on the web“:
“Congratulations to Clare Sambrook of the openDemocracy website, who last night scooped the Bevins Prize for Outstanding Investigative Journalism to add to the Paul Foot prize which she won last week.
The judges for both awards were impressed by Sambrook’s relentless reporting into the harm being caused to children being housed in detention centres by UK immigration authorities. She is a former Daily Telegraph financial journalist who went freelance in order to pursue the difficult, lonely and so often thankless pursuit of investigative journalism, which is increasingly ignored by cash-strapped mainstream media.”
Ian highlights an important trend here: investigative journalists are increasingly becoming “lone wolves”, working full-time jobs or taking freelance gigs to pay their bills while they dig dirt.
I’ve argued with other journalists about this. They don’t think this trend is happening because investigative journalism “costs money” and is too expensive to subsidise on a freelancer’s budget.
My retort to that is that The Muckraker’s “budget” is my salary (which, while good, is a starting wage as it’s my first full-time job in journalism). The costs of running the site are growing bigger, mainly because two investigations we’re working on require travel.
Even so, the main cost of running the site has been time. So there’s nothing to stop someone else setting up a WordPress blog and competing with us on our main patch, Northern Ireland (which I’d love – the more the merrier).
That aside, I’m wondering how this trend will evolve. Despite the many questions about investigative journalism’s “sustainability”, these journalists are proof that those who believe in it will find a way to do it. They may have to work a 9-5 job to pay the bills and work from their bedrooms but they’re still doing it. That gives me hope.