Independent investigative journalism in times of crisis

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Independent investigative journalism in times of crisis

The importance of quality, independent, investigative journalism for bringing clarity to issues cannot be overstated.

During times of political crisis, the perceptions of ordinary audiences may be muddied by partisanship, and by hardship when the crisis is economic. When politics and the economy intertwine, the content of such journalism holds transformational power to nurture the more holistic understanding needed for building bridges across divides and paving way to rationality and solutions.

Never has the potential of such journalism been clearer than this moment in history, one marked by crises everywhere, yet with an open Internet through which to cast content without restriction.

International and local news media have carried stories about the ongoing cost-of-living protests in Kenya. Across all media are dramatic images of mayhem and chaos, with teargas-filled air, street fires, arrests, and other scenes emblematic of demonstrations in young democracies. Local media also carry stories about business-as-usual life happening in parts of the country untouched by the protests.

Tucked away on the Internet are a handful of local, independent media houses whose content stands head and shoulders above the rest. They bring in-depth research backed by data and discussions with experts on dimensions of the issues, more numerous than would have been thought possible.

Their coverage results in a more informed audience, able to contribute to the public conversation rationally, in a nuanced manner, from a point of factual knowledge. These outlets, however, remain niche, catering to a more educated and much smaller demographic than mainstream media.

What lessons could mainstream news organisations learn from these outlets’ approach, particularly as concerns reducing polarization of opinions in times of crisis? What lessons are there for mainstream media to increase public trust in their own journalism, and in so doing, attend to a core issue that threatens their viability?

Photo: Local news reporting in Delhi, India. Credit: Sunny Rana Photography/Shutterstock