It’s critical to democracy and the preservation of human rights, and is one of journalism’s most important missions. Now it’s also the crux of an upcoming conference presented by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the University of Winnipeg.
Holding Power to Account: Investigative Journalism, Democracy and Human Rights, will be held June 13-15 in Winnipeg, bringing journalists, academics and the public together to debate some of the important issues investigative journalism can help illuminate.
Speakers include Carl Bernstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who broke the Watergate scandal; Peter Mansbridge, CBC’s chief correspondent; Diana Swain, CBC’s senior investigative correspondent; Paul Radu, director of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in Romania; and dozens of others from around the world.
Investigative journalism plays an important role globally.
“You only have to look at the courageous work being done in many countries around the world by people who endeavour to hold their governments, and powerful interests, to account to see how important this is,” says Cecil Rosner, managing editor of CBC Manitoba and one of the event’s organizers.
“Even in Canada, journalists routinely risk being sued, attacked, vilified – sometimes even physically threatened and attacked – by trying to pursue the truth. Whether a journalist is investigating a wrongful conviction, or a secret government project, or corrupt practices, or subjects that touch on people’s health care or security – these are matters that everyone has an interest in.”
Though Winnipeggers may not know it, our city is a hub for investigative journalism in Canada.
“CBC in Winnipeg conducts research and programs items that routinely run across Canada, and it also provides training and resources to the entire network in investigative journalism,” Rosner says.
The University of Winnipeg, through its Global College and other projects, has taken a leading role in highlighting global human rights issues, Rosner adds.
The forthcoming opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will also help “highlight Winnipeg as a centre where issues of human rights and democracy are being debated,” Rosner says.
Though investigative journalism is vital to society, historically it has been an area media outlets cut when faced with economic constraints.
“The economic situation affecting newspapers and other media outlets (over the past 10 years) has had an impact in this area. At the same time, the CBC and some other media outlets have continued to invest in investigative work, seeing it as an essential function for a credible news organization.”
At the same time, the proliferation of the internet has meant that individuals and outlets are now able to conduct their own investigations.
“This is having a profound effect on investigative work, as is the rise in some quarters of non-profit and foundation-supported centres of investigative journalism. The speed at which revelations like those disseminated by Edward Snowden have been distributed changes the situation for conventional journalism. The mainstream media outlets no longer act as exclusive gate-keepers when it comes to investigation or news judgments.”
Crowdsourcing is another area that’s impacting investigative journalism.
“Crowdsourcing projects have demonstrated that media outlets can successfully tap the wisdom of masses of people in conducting their investigations. This is bound to make for exciting developments in the future.”
The ability to analyze large amounts of data is also changing the scope of work that can be done.
“By analyzing available data, journalists can now perform investigative work that was impossible a decade or two earlier. It places more tools at the disposal of the journalist – and it also places a higher burden on journalists to acquire the necessary skills to be able to investigate and interpret the data,” Rosner says.
The conference will blend academic presentations and panels with talks by working journalists and anyone is welcome to attend. Registration costs are deliberately being kept low for students in order to encourage attendance.
For more information or to register: http://winnipeg2014.com/.