reading-newspaperAt the 2013 Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, leading investigative journalists from across the globe shared tips and insights about the state of journalism today.

During the conference, IACC Young Journalists Initiative spoke with many of these journalists asking them to share tips for journalists who are just starting out in their investigative careers.

The journalists interviewed at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference mentioned a few key points again and again in their tips. The highlights follow.

Personality

To succeed as an investigative journalist, you need to have a passion and drive that will sustain you through the toughest stories. Tips from top investigative journalists include:

  • “Don’t ask for permission. Do the story. Don’t wait for someone to assign it to you. Pick a story and do that story, and then do another one. Sooner or later, they’ll start to assign stories to you.” — Mark Lee Hunter, United States
  • “You need curiosity, skills, and courage.” — Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan
  • “You need to have the right mindset.” — David Leigh, England
  • “Find a topic you’re really interested in.” — Floor Boon, Netherlands
  • “Go for the big story. Just because it’s an environmental story or a science story doesn’t mean it has to be boring.” — Fiona MacLeod
  • “When everybody’s going one way, try looking at the other way.” — Juan Luis Font, Guatemala

Documents

You need proof to sell your stories to your editors and to get permission to investigate them and publish them. The investigative journalists interviewed by IACC Young Journalists kept bringing this topic up in their tips, which include:

  • “Find the people who can give documents to you because documents don’t lie.” — Andrew Jennings, Scotland
  • “Find the former officials. They have documents in their basements.” — Tom Blanton, United States
  • “Documents, documents, documents. Records are the bedrock of great journalism.” — Charles Lewis, United States

Money

There are two ways to look at money and investigative journalism—money from the investigator’s side and money from the people or entities being investigated.

  • “In my experience, the main thing you need for a successful career in investigative journalism isn’t a lot of technical equipment and it isn’t the ability to spend a lot of money. It’s having the right mindset.” – David Leigh, the former investigations executive editor for The Guardian
  • “Follow the money. If there is a problem with running water in your city, then there is someone making money from that problem.” — Khadija Ismayilova of Azerbaijan

IACC Young Journalists captured these tips and more in a short video, which you can watch below.

GIJC 2013 – Top Tips for Investigative Journalists from IACC Young Journalists on Vimeo.

Image: Brian Alexander