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An investigative reporter may make use of one or more of these tools, among others, on a single story:
- Analysis of documents, such as lawsuits and other legal documents, tax records, government reports, regulatory reports and corporate financial filings.
- Databases of public records.
- Investigation of technical issues, including scrutiny of government and business practices and their effects
- Research into social and legal issues
- Subscription research sources such as LexisNexis
- Numerous interviews with on-the-record sources as well as, in some instances, interviews with anonymous sources (for example whistleblowers)
- Federal or state Freedom of Information Acts to get documents and data from government agencies.
 Professional definitionsUniversity of Missouri journalism professor Steve Weinberg defined investigative journalism as: "Reporting, through one's own initiative and work product, matters of importance to readers, viewers or listeners." In many cases, the subjects of the reporting wish the matters under scrutiny to remain undisclosed. There are currently university departments for teaching investigative journalism. Conferences are conducted presenting peer reviewed research into investigative journalism.
British media theorist Hugo de Burgh (2000) states that: "An investigative journalist is a man or woman whose profession it is to discover the truth and to identify lapses from it in whatever media may be available. The act of doing this generally is called investigative journalism and is distinct from apparently similar work done by police, lawyers, auditors and regulatory bodies in that it is not limited as to target, not legally founded and closely connected to publicity."
- Julius Chambers of the New York Tribune had himself committed to the Bloomingdale Asylum in 1872, and his account led to the release of twelve patients who were not mentally ill, a reorganization of the staff and administration and, eventually, to a change in the lunacy laws. This later led to the publication of the book A Mad World and Its People (1876).
- William Thomas Stead's series of articles in 1885, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon regarding child prostitution in Victorian London, resulted in the Eliza Armstrong case.
- Nellie Bly's investigative reports on Women's Lunatic Asylum appeared in the newspaper New York World in 1887, and later as a book Ten Days in a Mad-House.
- How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis (1890), which revealed the squalor of immigrant slums in New York City of the 1890s
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906), which exposed shocking disregard for hygienic practices in the meat-packing industry of the early 1900s
- The People of the Abyss by Jack London, on poverty in the East End of London in the early 1900s
- Ida M. Tarbell's history of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company for McClure's Magazine (1903).
- Lincoln Steffens's "Shame of the Cities" series on municipal corruption for McClure's Magazine (1903) was then published as a book.
- Herbert Bayard Swope's role as editor in the investigation into the operations of the Ku Klux Klan won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1922.
- Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly 1954 investigation for CBS's See It Now of Senator Joseph McCarthy's conduct in the anti-communism hearings and their 1960 CBS Reports television documentary, along with David Lowe, Harvest of Shame on the condition of migrant workers in agriculture.
- Seymour Hersh's stories on the My Lai massacre were distributed by the Dispatch News ServiceVietnam War and won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1970. In 2004, Hersh reported for The New Yorker on torture inside the Abu Ghraib prison by members of a military police unit of the U.S. Army Reserve during the Iraq War. during the
- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's reporting on the Watergate break-in and other Nixon administration-related crimes for The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973.
- Mark Dowie and Carolyn Marshall's 1977 Mother Jones investigation of fatal dangers in the Ford Pinto automobile.
- John Pilger, an Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker, collaborated with filmmaker David Munro and photographer Eric Piper on the impact of the Khmer Rouge on the Cambodian people in a report for the British tabloid Daily Mirror and the documentary Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia (1979) for Associated Television. This was followed a year later by Cambodia: Year One. Both documentaries won UN Media Peace Prizes. After Year Zero, funds were raised in support of Cambodia.
- Bill Dedman's 1988 investigation, The Color of Money, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on racial discrimination by mortgage lenders in middle-income neighborhoods, received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting and was an influential early example of computer-assisted reporting or database journalism.
- Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele's two-year investigation for The Philadelphia Inquirer into the deterioration of the U.S. middle class that was then released as the 1992 book America What Went Wrong?
- Turkish journalist Uğur Mumcu of Cumhuriyet had been involved in several high profile and sensitive investigations before his murder in 1993, such as the Kurdish Worker's Party's ties to intelligence, Iranian support for the Kurdish Hezbollah, and even the background of Pope John Paul II's assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca.
- Veronica Guerin of Ireland combined her accounting and journalism skills to expose drug dealers for the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent before she was murdered in 1996. After her death, Ireland established the Criminal Assets Bureau to investigate organized crime.
- James Risen and Eric Lichtblau's investigation for The New York Times into U.S. President George W. Bush Administration's handling of secret domestic eavesdropping. Their report in December 2005 first made public the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
- Anna Politkovskaya's reporting in Chechnya and the Russian treatment of the Chechen people led to many investigative reports published in Novaya Gazeta, such as the poisoning of children. Her work was widely recognized by international organizations before she was murdered in 2006. Today an award in her name honors other women who report under circumstances of great danger.
 Notable investigative reporters
 Awards and organizations
- Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting
- Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting
- Investigative Reporters and Editors Award
- Worth Bingham Prize for investigative reporting
 Bureaus, centers, and institutes for investigations
- Bureau of Investigative Journalism
- California Watch
- Center for Investigative Reporting – Berkeley, California, USA
- Center for Investigative Reporting - Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Centre for Investigative Journalism
- Center for Public Integrity
- Investigative Reporting Workshop
- Investigative Reporters and Editors
 Television programs
- Exposé: America's Investigative Reports (PBS documentary series)
- The growth of media conglomerates in the US since the 1980s has been accompanied by massive cuts in the budgets for investigative journalism. A 2002 study concluded "that investigative journalism has all but disappeared from the nation's commercial airwaves." The empirical evidence for this is consistent with the conflicts of interest between the revenue sources for the media conglomerates and the mythology of an unbiased, dispassionate media: Advertisers have reduced their spending with media that reported too many unfavorable details. The major media conglomerates have found ways to retain their audience without the risks of offending advertisers inherent in investigative journalism.
 See also
- Freedom of information legislation
- Watchdog journalism
- Rodolfo Walsh
- "Investigative News Network". http://www.investigativenewsnetwork.org/. , a consortium of over 60 nonprofit investigative news organizations
- "What are primary sources?". Yale Collections Collaborative Project. 2008 Yale University. http://www.yale.edu/collections_collaborative/primarysources/primarysources.html. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Seward; Outreach editor at The Wall Street Journal, Zachary M.. "DocumentCloud adds impressive list of investigative-journalism outfits". Project news. Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab. http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/09/documentcloud-adds-impressive-list-of-investigative-journalism-outfits/. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Aucoin, James. The evolution of American investigative journalism. Columbia, Mo. : University of Missouri Press, c2005. http://innopac.library.unr.edu/record=b2362033. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "Story-based inquiry; a manual for investigative journalists". Manual. UNESCO Publishing. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001930/193078e.pdf. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Steve Weinberg, The Reporter's Handbook: An Investigator's Guide to Documents and Techniques," St. Martin's Press, 1996
- Investigative Journalism: Context and Practice, Hugo de Burgh (ed), Routledge, London and New York, 2000
- "A New Hospital for the Insane" (Dec., 1876) Brooklyn Daily Eagle
- McChesney, Robert W. (2004). [Robert_W._McChesney#The_Problem_of_the_Media:_U.S._Communication_Politics_in_the_21st_Century_.282004.29 The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st century]. Monthly Review Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-58367-105-6. Robert_W._McChesney#The_Problem_of_the_Media:_U.S._Communication_Politics_in_the_21st_Century_.282004.29. , citing [|Just, Marion]; Levine, Rosalind; Regan, Kathleen (Nov.-Dec. 2002), "Investigative Journalism Despite the Odds", Columbia Journalism Review: 103ff, http://www.journalism.org/node/231
 Further reading
- "Current State of Investigative Reporting," talk by Seymour Hersh at Boston University, 19 May 2009
- Video of the 2010 Logan Symposium at UC Berkeley's Consequences of Investigative Reporting" panel. Reporters from the Sahara Reporters, the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern, The Washington Post, The Las Vegas Review-Journal and The El Paso Times talk about the dangers investigative reporters face. Their experiences range from threat to life and limb for reporting on corruption in Africa, to subpoenas aimed at a journalism professor and his students for attempting to bring to light a miscarriage of justice. A Pulitzer Prize winner describes reporting on national security as her sources face internal inquisitions; a veteran reporter in Las Vegas talks about taking on casino moguls and organized crime; while a reporter covering the Mexican border explains how she has survived the violent reality of the undeclared war on our border. April 2010.
- Typewriter Guerillas: Closeups of 20 Top Investigative Reporters, by J.C. Behrens (paperback) 1977.
- Raising Hell: Straight Talk with Investigative Journalists, by Ron Chepesiuk, Haney Howell and Edward Lee (paperback) 1997
- Investigative Reporting: A Study in Technique (Journalism Media Manual), by David Spark, (paperback) 1999.
- Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism That Changed the World, John Pilger, ed. (paperback) 2005.
- Global Investigative Journalism (U.K., created 2003)
- International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (U.S., founded 1997)
- Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE, since 1975)
- Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) was established in 2003 in South Africa.
- Nepal Khoj Patrakarita Kendra, or Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ, Lalitpur, established 1996)
- Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ, founded 1989)
- Centre for Investigative Journalism (London, launched 2003)
- Bureau of Investigative Journalism (London, launched 2010)
- World Stability Council – independent P3 investigations since 2002
- Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (Jordan)
- Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR, U.S., since 1977)
- Center for Public Integrity's iWatch (U.S., since 1989)
- Investigative News Network (INN, U.S. created 2009)
- ProPublica (established 2007)
- Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI, established 2002)
- Investigative Reporting Workshop (American University, created 2008)