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How I got into investigative journalism

Patricia Cruz

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Investigative reporter and alumna Vicky Gayle shares how she got into investigative journalism.

Holding power to account, uncovering secrets, and telling stories that make a difference… these might be just some of the reasons why you want to be a journalist.

Investigative journalists have some of the most exciting jobs in the industry and are the subjects of countless TV dramas, films, and documentaries.

But what is it really like to be an investigative journalist? And what does it take to become one?

We spoke with Vicky Gayle, health inequality reporter for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, about how she got into investigative journalism and her advice for people wanting to break into the industry.

VICKY’S ROUTE INTO INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

What made you want to become an investigative journalist?

My intention has always been to write articles that mean something and for my journalism to be useful and impactful.

Investigations are typically long-form and require intense focus, which suits my personality and writing style, and lets me produce work that matters to readers.

What was your path to a journalism career?

I began writing in my teens and contributed to different local publications in Birmingham.

A youth magazine asked me to be an editor, so I managed a team of writers and edited their work from my dorm room during my first year at university.

I did the usual – university paper, starting blogs, doing unpaid work placements – and was constantly writing.

After university, I took a few years out and worked at a secondary school before enrolling on the postgraduate NCTJ course in Manchester.

After completing my NCTJ, I landed a trainee job at the Daily Gazette in Colchester.

Read how to make the most of student media here.

What does an average day look like in your current role?

My day as a health and inequality reporter at the Bureau Local will vary depending on what stage of a project we’re at, but there’s always a lot to juggle.

If we’re at the beginning ‘scoping’ stage, I’m reading a lot, contacting people for interviews, and establishing my subject knowledge.

Our latest project will be published next week, so I’m fact-checking, providing evidence, giving feedback on illustrations, and answering questions from different colleagues.          

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What is your favourite investigative story you’ve written?

A data-led investigation into systemic barriers for deaf people trying to access mainstream mental health support is one of my favourite published stories.

Even when others didn’t agree, I pushed to do the story because I knew how important it was, so I’m proud of myself for believing in my own editorial judgement.

Deaf people’s health still doesn’t get enough attention.

Are there any journalists who inspire you?

I don’t idolise any journalists. There are a lot of people doing great work and I see and respect that, particularly the older journos whose wisdom I’ve always valued.

I have a lot of admiration for anyone challenging the status-quo in journalism, who have launched their own platforms or are working on documentaries.

GETTING INTO INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

What are your three top tips for carrying out an investigation?

  1. Question everything. Even when you think you’ve established the answer, double check, and purposely look for what you might have missed.
  2. Develop a thicker skin. It’s hard when your work is being scrutinised to not take it personally, but in my experience, my colleagues are doing what our readers will eventually do – picking holes. Remember that and embrace the feedback.
  3. Don’t skip steps. Investigations are like dissertations and each step is important to the next. Be clear on what you’re doing and what the story is, as it becomes more complex later on.

What are the biggest mistakes aspiring journalists make?

Not using their location to their advantage enough. News is everywhere so make use of your connections and local communities.

That gives you a lot of scope to create interesting pitches for local and national outlets, and there are many specialist and independent titles to build your portfolio and write about niche topics.

Should you specialise early or try to be an all-rounder?

There is no right or wrong answer to whether a person should specialise or not. However, if you know you’re passionate about health or criminal justice, for example, it will absolutely work in your favour to build up subject knowledge and contacts in that field.

Eventually, those contacts will lead to tip-offs and all journalists want those.

I came into investigations via data journalism. You build up the skills and techniques the more ambitious your stories become – as you should in any newsroom.

What qualifications do you need?

You don’t need a degree for journalism full stop, but I will always encourage an NCTJ qualification, including shorthand.

Relying on audio recordings isn’t ideal and you can’t do regional or local news reporting properly without shorthand.            

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What are your biggest takeaways from doing an NCTJ course?

Shorthand becomes fun and once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be proud of yourself.

When doing the course, you should write for local publications like Mancunian Matters and take it seriously. You’ll use those same skills when you start working in the industry and the articles will be included in your portfolio.

I knew having an NCTJ would get me a junior reporter job and that job led to where I am now.

Whether you want to go into investigative journalism, entertainment writing, sports reporting or political correspondence, we cover it all at !

Find out more about our NCTJ Multimedia Journalism diploma courses here.

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Journalism

The Top Journalism Websites for News and Analysis”

Alice Trout

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Journalism plays an essential role in keeping the public informed about current events and issues. The internet has made it easier than ever to access a wide range of news and analysis from reputable sources. Here are some of the best journalism sites for keeping up-to-date on the latest happenings around the world:

  1. The New York Times (www.nytimes.com) – The New York Times is a well-respected newspaper that has been in operation for over 150 years. It offers a wide range of news and analysis on politics, business, technology, and culture.
  2. The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) – The Washington Post is another well-respected newspaper that has been in operation for over 150 years. It offers in-depth coverage of national and international news, as well as commentary on politics, business, and more.
  3. The Guardian (www.theguardian.com) – The Guardian is a British newspaper that offers a wide range of news and analysis on politics, business, technology, and culture. It has a strong reputation for investigative journalism and has won numerous awards.
  4. BBC News (www.bbc.com/news) – BBC News is the online news division of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events.
  5. Al Jazeera (www.aljazeera.com) – Al Jazeera is a Qatari news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of the Middle East and North Africa.
  6. Reuters (www.reuters.com) – Reuters is a global news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of business and financial news.
  7. CNN (www.cnn.com) – CNN is a global news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of breaking news and live events.
  8. The Economist (www.economist.com) – The Economist is a British magazine that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events, with a focus on economics and politics.
  9. The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com) – The Atlantic is an American magazine that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events, with a focus on politics, culture, and technology.
  10. ProPublica (www.propublica.org) – ProPublica is a non-profit organization that focuses on investigative journalism. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of politics, business, and social issues.

Guest blogging is a highly effective marketing strategy that every business should be utilizing. By purchasing PR publications, you can increase traffic and establish authority.

These are just a few examples of the many great journalism websites that are available. Whether you’re looking for breaking news, in-depth analysis, or a particular perspective on current events, these sites are an excellent starting point.

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Journalism

The Ethics of Healthcare Advertising: Balancing the Right to Information with the Risk of Deception

Alice Trout

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Healthcare advertising has the potential to inform and educate the public about important medical treatments and products, but it must be done in an ethical and responsible manner. On one hand, the public has the right to access information about healthcare options that may improve their quality of life or save their lives. On the other hand, there is a risk that healthcare advertising could deceive or mislead consumers, leading to negative consequences for both the companies and the public.

One issue with healthcare advertising is the promotion of prescription drugs for off-label use. Off-label use refers to the use of a drug for a purpose that has not been approved by the regulatory agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. While it is not illegal for doctors to prescribe drugs for off-label use, it is illegal for pharmaceutical companies to promote drugs for off-label use. This is because the FDA has not determined that the drug is safe and effective for the unapproved use.

Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies have been known to engage in off-label promotion in order to increase sales. This can be harmful to patients, as they may be prescribed a drug that has not been thoroughly tested for the specific condition they are suffering from. In some cases, off-label use of a drug can even be dangerous.

Another issue with healthcare advertising is the use of exaggerated or misleading claims. This can include making false or unproven statements about the effectiveness of a drug or treatment, or downplaying the risks and side effects. Such practices can lead to consumers making informed decisions about their healthcare, and can also harm the reputation of the healthcare industry as a whole.

In order to strike a balance between the right to information and the risk of deception, it is important for both regulatory agencies and the healthcare industry to prioritize ethical practices in healthcare advertising. This can include measures such as strict oversight by regulatory agencies, clear guidelines for the approval and review of advertising materials, and campaigns to educate the public about how to evaluate and interpret healthcare advertising. By taking these steps, we can ensure that the public has access to accurate and reliable information about healthcare options, while also protecting against deceptive practices that can harm both consumers and the healthcare industry.

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Journalism

Supporting Startup Founders’ Mental Health: The Importance of Prioritizing Well-Being in the Fast-Paced Startup World

Alice Trout

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As the startup world continues to thrive and grow, it’s important to recognize that the fast-paced, high-stress environment can take a toll on the mental health of founders and employees. In fact, research has shown that entrepreneurs are at a higher risk for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression compared to the general population.

One key factor that contributes to this risk is the pressure to succeed and the fear of failure that can come with starting and running a business. Additionally, the long hours and lack of work-life balance that are often associated with the startup world can also contribute to mental health challenges.

It’s essential that startups prioritize the mental health of their founders and employees, not only for the well-being of the individual, but also for the overall success of the business. Research has shown that mental health issues can negatively impact productivity and decision-making, which can have serious consequences for a company.

There are a few steps that startups can take to support the mental health of their team members:

  1. Encourage open communication and create a safe space for employees to talk about their mental health concerns.
  2. Offer resources such as counseling and mental health benefits to employees.
  3. Foster a culture of self-care by promoting healthy habits such as regular exercise and proper nutrition.
  4. Set boundaries and encourage work-life balance to prevent burnout.

For those not ready to go to the doctor or looking for support, mental health startups Europe offer help through apps.

It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s crucial that startups prioritize the well-being of their founders and employees. By taking steps to support the mental health of their team, startups can create a positive and healthy work environment that leads to success for both the business and its employees.

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