An investigative journalist, also called investigative reporter, digs deeply into public or human interest news stories to discover and report the underlying truth.
Investigative journalists conduct interviews, research documents, and perform other investigatory activities before compiling their findings into a report, which is then delivered on television or in print.
Investigative journalists generally go after stories that would not otherwise receive media attention, such as scandals involving corruption, famous people, or government officials.
The nature of the job requires investigative journalists to think fast on their feet and be excellent communicators. A natural curiosity and willingness to ask probing questions is especially helpful.
Employers expect that investigative journalist candidates will have at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, English, or related discipline. Programs approved by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications are recommended.
A master’s or doctorate degree can further increase a job seeker’s chances for securing a position in this highly competitive field.
Courses that are helpful to those pursuing investigative journalism include investigative reporting, journalism ethics, news reporting and writing, mass communications, and photojournalism. Knowledge of a foreign language may also be helpful.
Employers strongly prefer that applicants have previous experience; therefore it’s important for aspiring investigative journalists to pursue internships or volunteer at school or local newspapers, magazines, or television or radio stations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that median annual wages of reporters and correspondents in May 2008 were $34,850 with the middle 50% earning between $25,760 and $52,160.
Although there isn’t expected to be much job growth in this field, those who have a specialization, such as in politics, business, or medical science, in addition to excellent writing skills will have an advantage. Opportunities will probably be best in online publications and also through freelancing.